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Albemarle has announced its decision to build two additional processing trains at the Kemerton lithium hydroxide plant in WA, making it the largest investor in downstream lithium processing in the country.

The expansion will increase Kemerton’s production capacity by 50 kilo-tonnes per annum, doubling total production to 100 kilo-tonnes per annum, making Albemarle the largest producer of lithium in Australia.

The increase in production capacity is enough to support the production of batteries for over two million electric vehicles each year.

The additional two trains will cost the company an estimated US$1.25 to US$1.5 billion. The first two trains were completed at Kemerton in 2022 at a cost of roughly US$1 billion. These earlier trains were commissioned as part of a Mineral Resources and Albemarle Joint Venture, with Albemarle holding an 85 per cent interest.

But the new trains will be wholly Albemarle owned, and will process premium spodumene concentrate from the company’s world-class Greenbushes lithium mine.

Albemarle chief executive officer, Kent Masters, said Australia is essential to the global supply chain for energy storage.

“Our decision to expand was driven by our confidence in future demand and allows us to offer customers additional supply from Greenbushes, well known as one of the world’s best lithium mines.”

Albemarle president of energy storage, Eric Norris, echoed a similar sentiment.

“Kemerton is a world-class facility, and we’re proud to be making another significant investment in downstream processing in Australia,” he said.

Last month Albemarle invested $125.6 million in a new workers’ village to support the Kemerton expansion.

The housing project will encompass the development of 200 four-bed villas, as well as a lap pool, mini golf course, and large car park in Australind, WA.

Albemarle has also been looking to expand outside of its own operations, in March submitting a takeover offer of lithium explorer Liontown Resources for $5.2 billion.

But Liontown’s board rejected the offer, and in response Albemarle acquired almost five per cent in Liontown’s shares through on-market purchases.