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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 735 asked in the Legislative Council on 30 August 2018 by Hon Jacqui Boydell

Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on 30 August 2018

BATTERY METALS HUB — PILBARA

735. Hon JACQUI BOYDELL to the Minister for Regional Development:

I refer to the minister's recent media commentary in Stockhead online in which she stated that she wanted to ''keep alive the dream'' of a battery metals hub in the Pilbara but that some people argue that it is too difficult. If establishing a new industry in the Pilbara gets too difficult for the minister, will she simply roll over and have it located at Kwinana, as stated in the article?

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN replied:

I think that is an absurd proposition.

Hon Jacqui Boydell: You said it.

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN: What I was said was that players in the industry believe that there are very great challenges involved in the downstream processing for lithium.

Hon Jacqui Boydell: And you agreed.

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN: No. I said that we, unlike the previous government, have absolutely determined that we are going to seize the opportunity of our lithium industry and that we are going to have downstream processing, and it is not just going to be refining.

Hon Jacqui Boydell interjected.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Member, you have asked the question. The minister is trying to provide you with an answer. It is not helpful when you are raising your voice over hers. It does not help Hansard.

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN: We are very focused on ensuring that we have not just refining, but also cathode production, and that we move right up the value chain in the use of our lithium, as is demonstrated by the work that we are doing in not only Kwinana, but also Kemerton. We are working very closely with Albemarle to get a facility in Kemerton. We have also worked with the City of Kalgoorlie–Boulder and Neometals Ltd and have provided land for the proposal by Neometals to do processing in Kalgoorlie. What I was referring to in that article specifically was the very detailed work that we are doing together with Minister Bill Johnston, who is leading the task force, in talking to all the producers in the Pilbara about how we might make this work. Some of them are enthusiastic and some of them believe it will be too difficult to move beyond the refining stage. They talk about the difficulty of the output becoming someone else's input, because obviously a lot of by-product is created in the process and as it moves up the value chain, it is relatively easy in Kwinana to find another user for that by-product, but it becomes much more difficult when it is far away from major centres.

We have not given up. We are working with these producers. We are looking at other options and at a direct shipping option into the Pilbara that might open up other markets for those by-products that are passed on. The previous government did absolutely nothing to develop the lithium industry. We are in there doing it under the leadership of Bill Johnston. From a regional development point of view, we are in there batting for Kalgoorlie, Kemerton and the Pilbara. Of course, we have to acknowledge the challenges. We have to acknowledge the challenges that are raised by the people who are producing the stuff. We are acknowledging it and we are moving on. We are doing something you never did, which was look at downstream processing in the Pilbara.

Several members interjected.

The PRESIDENT: Order! We are on a bit of a time frame today.