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The Kwinana lithium plant in Western Australia. Image: Tianqi Lithium

IGO has helped to produce the first lithium hydroxide chemical product from the Kwinana Lithium Hydroxide Refinery, as part of its joint venture (Lithium JV) with Tianqi Lithium Corporation.

Next steps at the refinery will be to improve the product quality to battery grade for offtake, as the first production was intentionally not yet up to standard.

The product came as train one at Kwinana was commissioned over recent months, which IGO managing director and chief executive officer Peter Bradford said was only step one.

“First production of lithium hydroxide is the first step of a journey but nevertheless represents a key milestone for the Lithium JV,” Bradford said.

“We are therefore delighted to have achieved this first important step in the commissioning of train one and to have done so ahead of the internal schedule developed earlier this year.”

Lithium JV will now move train one from producing lithium hydroxide on a batch basis to a continuous basis, as it improves the product.

Saleable product is expected to be produced before the end of 2021 and accredited battery grade product will follow in the March quarter of 2022.

The designed production rate at Kwinana of 24,000 tonnes per annum is expected to be reached by the end of 2022.

Bradford said the project fell in line with growing demand for the product.

“The strong demand being witnessed in the lithium market globally reinforces the strategic nature of Kwinana which, together with the Lithium JV’s interest in the Greenbushes mine, is rapidly evolving into a globally significant, integrated lithium operation catering to the specific needs of premium lithium-ion battery manufacturers,” Bradford said.

IGO has a 49 per cent interest in Lithium JV. Through the JV, IGO also holds a 25 per cent indirect interest in the Greenbushes lithium mine in Western Australia – the largest of its kind.