As part of IGO’s strategy to be vertically integrated into the battery supply chain, IGO has been exploring opportunities for transitioning downstream within our nickel portfolio for the last few years. Globally, the shift to renewable energy and electrification of the transport sector has rapidly increased the demand for critical minerals and battery chemicals needed for the production of lithium-ion batteries.
IGO, as a leading supplier of metals critical to this transition, has identified the opportunities of moving beyond just the mining of critical raw minerals in order to capture a greater share of value. This led to the development a new patented process (the IGO Process™) that can produce a high-quality nickel sulphate product direct from nickel sulphide concentrate. Testwork and studies have demonstrated the IGO Process™ can deliver:
- Very high metal recoveries
- Low costs for the integrated production of nickel sulphate
- A more environmentally sustainable process compared to the traditional production methods for nickel sulphate, due to significantly lower emissions, power consumption and waste generation
- Ability to produce high-quality nickel sulphate for use in lithium-ion batteries
After completing this important workstream in 2019, IGO has continued to explore value creation from downstream processing aligned to clean energy through potential partnerships and collaborative industry opportunities, leveraging off the technology we developed.
Following an expansive review of the battery supply chain and reflecting the dynamic nature of this still maturing market, IGO believes further integration down the battery supply chain is possible in Australia. IGO is now working towards fully optimising our nickel supply chain from mining through to the production of battery chemicals, specifically precursor cathode active material.
Integrated Battery Material Facility
IGO, in conjunction with Wyloo Metals (Wyloo), is working towards making a financial investment decision on the development of a Project which involves integrating a downstream nickel refinery with a plant producing high-value nickel dominant precursor cathode active material (PCAM) for the battery supply chain. The proposed Project would combine IGO’s disruptive nickel refining technology with PCAM production expertise via a low-cost and low-carbon process. The Project would represent the first commercial production of PCAM in Australia and would align with the State Government’s drive to grow Western Australia’s future battery industry.
The proposed integrated battery material facility (IBM Facility) would be constructed in the Kwinana-Rockingham Strategic Industrial Area on approximately 30 hectares of vacant industrial land leased from the State Government.
Key workstreams required before a Final Investment Decision can be made include engaging a partner with experience in PCAM production, delivery of a Feasibility Study in mid-2024, environmental permitting and approvals, broad stakeholder engagement and the achievement of key commercial outcomes. IGO and Wyloo are currently advancing discussions with a global battery chemical manufacturer who have indicated strong interest in partnering in the Project. This is an important step in integrating the parties’ technologies with IGO’s critical minerals to capture value across the supply chain.
The proposed IBM Facility would harness the IGO Process™, a disruptive technology developed by IGO and demonstrated to be at the bottom quartile of operating costs while delivering significantly reduced carbon emissions when compared to equivalent processes for the production of nickel rich battery chemicals. The IGO Process™ is also able to treat a broader range of concentrate feeds as compared to traditional refining processes.
Combining the IGO Process™ with leading precursor manufacturing technology, the proposed IBM Facility will produce precursor cathode active material needed for the manufacture of nickel rich cathode material in lithium-ion batteries.
In April 2023, IGO secured land in the Kwinana Strategic Industrial Area from the Western Australian Government for the proposed IBM Facility. IGO believes there is strong strategic merit in establishing a battery chemical hub in Kwinana close to raw material supply given IGO’s existing upstream nickel assets and Western Australia’s sizeable battery mineral endowment.
The land secured for the proposed IBM Facility is located adjacent to the Kwinana Lithium Hydroxide Refinery which is owned by Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia (TLEA), a joint venture between IGO and Tianqi Lithium Corporation.
Read more in the ASX Announcement: Land Secured at Kwinana for Proposed Integrated Battery Material Facility
Proposed integrated battery material facility at Kwinana: Conceptual render
Integrated Battery Materials Facility – Project Background
The electrification of transport is driving significant demand for battery critical metals including nickel, lithium, copper, cobalt, manganese and rare earths. While the demand for raw battery metals will increase over the next two decades, global energy storage needs also require significant volumes of refined battery chemicals and active materials.
The current battery supply chain for the extraction, refining and manufacturing of battery metals and chemicals is complex, with the majority downstream processing occurring in China, other Asian countries, Europe and North America. While there has been recent construction of lithium hydroxide plants in WA, to date, there is limited downstream production occurring within Australia for battery chemicals and other products.
IGO Limited is focused on co-developing an IBM Facility in Kwinana, Western Australia. In partnership with Wyloo Metals, and a planned PCAM partner, the proposed IBM Facility will be capable of producing high value nickel-cobalt-manganese precursor cathode active material.
The Project will source feed stock concentrates and other intermediates from IGO’s own assets and third-party suppliers, providing a direct linkage between Western Australian upstream battery mineral assets and downstream customers in the battery supply chain, and support the development of sovereign battery chemical processing capabilities in Western Australia.
IGO believes that shifting the current supply chain dynamics and producing battery chemicals, and specifically precursor cathode active material, is the optimal battery chemical that will have significant financial and carbon footprint advantages than comparable production processes. It will also enable Australia to create greater critical battery metal security and support the building of improved national capability across the battery supply chain.