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After selling its share in the Kemerton lithium hydroxide facility in WA and missing its annual lithium production target for Wodgina, questions surrounding what Mineral Resources (MinRes) will do next remain.

Albemarle took full ownership of Kemerton late last week, with Albemarle chief executive officer Kent Masters saying the agreement positioned both companies to better align their planned capital investments and assets.

At the time, MinRes said the deal was a “win-win for both parties”.

“For MinRes, we’ve unlocked value from our non-integrated Kemerton processing facility, which will provide flexibility to continue expanding our hard rock assets and developing our own integrated lithium conversion assets in Australia and abroad,” MinRes chief executive – lithium Josh Thurlow said.

A week later, the company missed its lithium battery chemical production at Wodgina, resulting in shipments of spodumene concentrate falling by 26 per cent to 34,000 tonnes.

On paper, it might look as though the major miner is having a tough time with its lithium business, but it may actually be gearing up for something bigger.

Its solo office in Ningbo, China, will see it market its spodumene independently, while also working on a preliminary study for the startup of its own Australian lithium downstream plant.

“Building downstream capacity in Australia remains MinRes’ preference if the project economics deliver value,” MinRes said in a statement.

“MinRes will continue working with State and Federal Governments on refining their strategies to ensure Australia is cost competitive in the current global environment. Investments elsewhere in the region are under consideration.”

There are also discussions surrounding a WA gas plant, and to ensure the Onslow Iron project will start shipping ore by the middle of 2024.