Greens call on state government to consider railway for lithium

The Greens have called on the State Government to ensure adequate infrastructure is in place to cater for the anticipated lithium boom in WA.

Greens South West MLC Diane Evers has proposed looking at the possibility of reopening the disused Bunbury to Greenbushes rail line, which was deactivated almost two decades ago. 

The Tianqi plant at Greenbushes is one of many gearing up to increase production of lithium, expected to be in rising demand as the use of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and electronic devices continues to grow.

“The plant is looking at doubling production to more than 130,000 tonnes of lithiumcarbonate to supply the new refinery at Kwinana this year,” Ms Evers said.

A Tianqi Greenbushes spokesman confirmed his company accounted for about 15 per cent of traffic on South Western Highway.

“Without rail freight, truck movements on the highway all the way to Kwinana are set to increase sharply, contributing to wear and tear as well as greater safety risks,” Ms Evers said.

“The South West will also see increased mining activity as many of the minerals needed for the technology sector are found in the region.

“The mining activity, which would create thousands of new jobs, would bring families and associated businesses to the region, which would add pressure on the roads.”

Bunbury MLA Don Punch said the major drama with rail for lithium was that a previous government had privatised the rail system 

“It is a commercial issue – the re-opening of that rail would have to be a decision of Oregon based on what the economics are for lithium to come onto rail plus any other product that might be able to come on rail,” he said. 

“The rationale behind the rail was always going to be pulling together enough product to make the rail economically viable so that’s a discussion between the miners and any other potential users of the rail and Oregon.”

In other lithium news, the Environmental Protection Authority recommended the proposed lithium manufacturing plant in Kemerton be approved last week.