£555m Queensland coal mine receives construction approval
Final approvals for the £554.9 million Olive Downs coal mine in central Queensland, Australia have been granted, signalling the start of construction for the mine, government figures say.
In a statement, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says that Pembroke Resources’ Olive Downs Coking Coal Project has been granted the necessary mining leases – the last of the major approvals required for the project to start building the mine. Olive Downs will create over 1,000 new jobs in the region as the project is developed to produce up to a forecast 15Mtpa of saleable coal over its 79-year mine life.
“This means that construction activities can now start, and the company can start hiring the 500 people needed to build the mine,” said Palaszczuk. “My Government is delivering our plan for Queensland’s economic recovery, and the resources sector will continue to be an important part of that plan. The resources industry has a long future in Queensland, whether it’s metallurgical coal from the Bowen Basin, bauxite from Weipa or rare earth minerals from the North West Minerals Province. This project takes resources investment in Queensland over the past five years to £11.6 billion, creating 8,000 jobs."
Mine Minister Dr Anthony Lynham states that construction work at Olive Downs can begin immediately, with core construction activities at the mine site – which is 40km south-east of Moranbah – expected to begin in 2021. Mining will start as soon as construction is complete, he adds. Coal will be transported by rail to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal for export to key international markets such as Japan, China, India and South Korea.
The project is expected to contribute an estimated £4.44 billion to the local economy and more than £5.55 billion to Queensland’s economy during its lifespan. Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert said the granting of final approvals meant Pembroke could begin delivering more jobs for the Mackay region.
“Olive Downs can now proceed to deliver up to 500 construction jobs building the mine and its associated infrastructure including rail and transmission lines, water pipelines and access roads,” Gilbert says. “When at its peak production, and over its 79-year life, the mine will go on to employ up to 1,000 workers in the local region, including in and around Moranbah and Dysart."
Traditional industries play a key role in the Palaszczuk Governments’ £4.44 billion plan to project jobs and businesses in Queensland, said Treasurer Cameron Dick.
“Right through the pandemic we have seen that Queensland’s traditional industries like resources and agriculture have held up well. The resource industry is central to Queensland’s economic future, so right across the state it plays an important part in our plan for economic recovery. Our strong health response and our strong borders have positioned us well for economic recovery,” he said.
Recognised as a Tier One steelmaking coal project due to its 838 million tonne joint ore reserves committee (JORC) resource and 514 million tonnes of open cut JORC reserves, the Olive Downs project is forecast to produce 15 million tonnes of saleable coal a year, across its 79-year mine life.
Barry Tudor, Pembroke chairman and chief executive officer, says that the mining lease approvals were the final approval hurdle to commence the first stage of the project.
“We are extremely pleased to have been granted the mining leases, having consulted extensively with the local community over the past four years,” he says. “In addition to our commitment to the environment, we have focused on creating local jobs and proactively engaged with all stakeholders, including establishing a strong relationship with Barada Barna, the traditional owners of the land, with whom we have an Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Cultural Heritage Management Plan in place.
"Olive Downs has already assembled the key elements required to commence construction following the grant of the mining leases, including securing access to power, water, rail and port, even as finance and offtake partners are finalised. Pembroke is committed to providing workers with an opportunity to live in towns near the mine including Moranbah and Dysart and is building sustainable futures for people in the communities in which Olive Downs operates."
Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand
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.
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.”
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.
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.