Wesfarmers makes $546 mln bid for lithium spodumene producer Kidman Resources

Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers bid $546 million on Thursday May 2 to acquire junior lithium spodumene producer Kidman Resources.

Fellow Australian company Kidman is developing the Mount Holland asset in Western Australia to produce lithium spodumene concentrate in a 50:50 joint venture with Chilean lithium producer SQM. They are looking to build a lithium hydroxide plant with capacity for 45,500 tonnes per year, which would start its commissioning stage by 2021.

“The acquisition of Kidman [would] provide an opportunity to invest in and develop a large-scale, long-life and high-grade lithium hydroxide project in Western Australia,” Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said.

“It [would] also create a unique partnership with SQM, a global leader in the lithium industry with a long operating history and deep market knowledge,” he added.

“In partnership with SQM, we will support the development of an integrated, world-class lithium operation in Western Australia, bringing significant investment, jobs and technical expertise to the state,” Scott said.

“Wesfarmers has significant local infrastructure, experience and capability in chemical processing that will be ideally suited to the continuing development of the Mount Holland lithium project,” SQM chief executive officer Ricardo Ramos said. “We look forward to a long and successful partnership with Wesfarmers.”

The rapid development of the battery industry has increased the interest in investments in the production of lithium, a critical material in battery manufacture.

The bid from Wesfarmers follows the purchase by Ganfeng Lithium of 50% of junior lithium producer Lithium Americas and Tianqi Lithium’s purchase of 23.77% of SQM.