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Federal Minister for Resources Madeleine King has affirmed Australia’s position as a world leader in the lithium sphere. 

“As the world’s largest producer of lithium, a key component in batteries for electric vehicles, our minerals sector has an enormous role to play in the success of the energy transition over the coming decades,” King said. 

“Demand for battery minerals is surging with the uptake of electric vehicles and our lithium sector is going from strength to strength. 

The Minister’s comments formed the foreword of Geoscience Australia’s 2022 report on Australia’s Identified Mineral Resources (AIMR).  

The report confirms Australia’s position as the world’s number-one producer of lithium, boasting almost a third of the world’s known resources.  

The report – which estimates Australia’s reserves and resources as at December 31 2021 – shows that Australia produced a record 55 kilotonnes of lithium in 2021, compared to 40 in the previous year.   

The report also confirms Australia’s status as the world leader in the production of four other important commodities: bauxite, iron ore, rutile and zircon. 

Exploration expenditure increased 28 per cent to an impressive $3.6 billion, making it the largest such expenditure in almost a decade.  

Although national lithium production is second-to-none, King said more needs to be done to keep processing operations onshore. 

“As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at his National Press Club Address in February, Australia must not only extract more critical minerals like lithium but also look to process those materials here to protect our national sovereignty,” she said.  

Last month, Mineral Resources (MinRes) splashed close to $1 billion for an interest in lithium processing plants in China.  

MinRes managing director Chris Ellison told the Australian Financial Review that the offshore investment would ensure the company could convert its Wodgina-sourced spodumene into battery-grade chemicals in the short term.     

“Doing more here in Australia is my preference over the long term,” Ellison said. “ We need capacity today.”   

A week later, Pilbara Minerals and POSCO secured $682 million funding for the construction of a lithium processing plant in South Korea.