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Wodgina beneficiation plant. Image: Mineral Resources

Albemarle is hoping to grow its lithium presence in Australia by linking supply chains to Europe vehicle manufactuers.

The lithium giant currently has stakes in two major WA lithium mines, including the Wodgina mine with Mineral Resources (MinRes).

MinRes and Albemarle also have a joint MARBL lithium venture, which will go through a restructure in the near future.

Under the restructure, Albemarle will increase its interest in the first two conversion trains of its Kemerton processing plant, while MinRes will increase its interest in Wodgina from 40 per cent to 50 per cent, operating it on behalf of the joint venture.

“Our Australian lithium assets are core to Albemarle’s strategy to build a globally diversified portfolio of best-in-class assets and resources,” Albemarle chief executive officer Kent Masters said.

“Inherent to that strategy is managing our global portfolio to maximise growth optionality and maintain a leading position in a dynamic, growing market. Our restructured MARBL joint venture enables each partner to deliver long-term value to our customers.”

Albemarle now wants to link its WA operations to electric vehicle (EV) production in Europe.

“We see Australia’s spodumene as being a very viable resource to support (our) European expansion strategy,” Albemarle president of energy storage Eric Norris said.

“What we haven’t quite worked through is the footprint, what we’d be shipping out of Australia, whether it be six per cent spodumene or some intermediate. And the sizing of that, in terms of how big a plant we’re talking about, is still under investigation.

“But assuming we’re successful, we believe a strong supply chain would be Australia into Europe. And that, again, just speaks to the significance on a global basis of how the industry can leverage WA and how we as a leader intend to leverage Australia as critical in our supply chain.”

Norris said the company expects the joint ventures with MinRes to support the strategy while also ensuring the highest returns for shareholders.

“We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us with the transition to clean transportation and anticipated rapid growth of lithium-ion batteries,” he said.