May 17, 2020

BHP expects job cuts at Worsley Alumina after efficiency review

BHP Billiton
Worsley Alumina
Australia
Port Bunbury
Admin
2 min
BHP's Worsley Alumina site in Southwest Australia
BHP Billiton has confirmed the completion of a 4-year project that focused growth and efficiency, leading to a review of the number of roles need for op...

BHP Billiton has confirmed the completion of a 4-year project that focused growth and efficiency, leading to a review of the number of roles need for operation at the Worsley Alumina site in the south west corner of Australia. The company has made it clear that the review will lead to job cuts for BHP, but a specific number has not been made clear.

There are currently 1,200 employees at Worsley Alumina, ranging from jobs created through the employment of subcontractors and support from local businesses and suppliers. Last year, a major expansion of operations was completed, leading the business into a phase designated for stabilisation. Since then, redundancies have been detected in their operations.

Several people have commented on the potential for job loss at the site, including an official spokeswoman for the company and the CEO of the Bunbury Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

 “With no new projects planned for the next five years, the organisational structure of Worsley is under review,” said the BHP spokeswoman. “This includes reviewing the nature and number of roles needed to support safe and efficient production and ensure Worsley has a sustainable future. We don’t intend to provide any detail about specific adjustments, but clearly there may be some impact on jobs in some areas. The review is ongoing and no operational disruptions are anticipated.”

Ray Philp, Bunbury Chamber of Commerce and Industries CEO has chalked up the job losses to a change of phase at the site, which many in the construction sector expect.

“It is about a change of roles, from a construction to an operation workforce so the construction workers aren’t required anymore,” he said. “I think people who are in the construction workforce are used to working based on the projects as they happen.”

Bunbury in involved from an export standpoint with the mine. An expansion to the mine in 2000 (construction on the mine and refinery began in 1980) caused an increase in production. Now, around 3.1 million tonnes a year are carted by rail and exported through the Port of Bunbury.

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May 7, 2021

Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand

Lithium
Electric Vehicles
Albemarle
SQM
3 min
Lithium producers are drawing optimism from rising prices for the electric vehicle battery metal

Rising demand for lithium is stoking prices for the electric vehicle battery metal, fueling long-delayed expansions that still may not produce adequate supplies that automakers need to meet aggressive production plans.

Lithium

Growing industry optimism from higher lithium prices is a change from last year when funding for mines and processing plants dried up during the pandemic.

Albemarle Corp, Livent Corp and other producers are scrambling to make more lithium, but some analysts worry the recent price jump will not spur a big enough expansion to meet a planned wave of new EV models by mid-decade.

Since January, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation Co, along with other automakers and battery parts manufacturers, have said they will spend billions of dollars on EV plants.

U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed spending $174bn to boost EV sales and infrastructure. The European Union has similar plans, part of a rush to catch up with global EV leader China.

Those moves have helped an index of lithium prices jump 59 percent since April 2020, according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a commodity pricing provider.

The rising demand “reflects what feels like a real and fundamental turning point in our industry,” said Paul Graves, chief executive of Livent Corp, which supplies Tesla Inc. On Monday, it said it would more than double its annual lithium production to 115,000 tonnes.

Graves warned, though, that “it will be a challenge for the lithium industry to produce sufficient qualified material in the near and medium term.”

Albermarle

Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to double its production capacity to 175,000 tonnes by the end of the year when two construction projects are complete. Albemarle's Q1 profit beat expectations thanks to rising lithium prices. Chile’s SQM, the No. 2 producer, said its goal to expand production of lithium carbonate by 71 percent to 120,000 tonnes should be complete by December.

Australia’s Orocobre is paying $1.4 billion for smaller rival Galaxy Resources, a strategy designed to boost scale and help it grow faster in regions closer to customers.

“The next few years are going to be critical in terms of whether there’s enough available lithium supply, and that’s why you’re starting to see commodity prices start to ramp,” said Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant.

The price gains helped Albemarle and other major producers, including China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co and SQM, post big gains in first-quarter profit and boost forecasts for the year.

Even China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp, saddled with debt due to years of low lithium prices, signaled that recovering demand should help it swing to a profit this year.

Electric Vehicles

Forecasts call for demand for the white metals to surge from about 320,000 tonnes annually last year to more than 1 million tonnes annually by 2025, when many automakers plan to launch new EV fleets, according to Benchmark.

Still, demand is expected to outstrip supply in 2025 by more than 200,000 tonnes, so lithium prices may need to rise to encourage producers to build more mines. That could boost the prices consumers pay for EVs. “Companies across the lithium-ion supply chain are in the best position they’ve been in for the last 5 years,” said Pedro Palandrani of the Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF , which has doubled in value in the past year.

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