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published September 20, 2021 on The West Australian

The Western Trade Coast (WTC) is the State’s gateway for international trade, following a push from industry advocates to maximise its potential into the future.

Already, the WTC – spanning 6000 hectares – is perfectly positioned on the Indian Ocean rim, making it well placed to take advantage of growth among Australia’s largest trading partners.

The Kwinana hub is marching toward a net-zero carbon future across its supply chains, with companies that call the WTC home already pledging important carbon reduction milestones to help set the global standard in environmental sustainability.

And according to Regional Development Australia Executive Officer Colleen Yates, it’s a world-leading example of industry symbiosis, with hundreds of interconnected local relationships saving businesses money and resources.

“This is similar to recycling, where companies will use the by-products of another local business to make their own products,” she explained.

“These links range from micro-scale cost and resource-saving initiatives such as the neutralisation of alumina residue via carbon dioxide from local chemical plants, and a pigment plant supplying hydrochloric acid to a chemical manufacturer to produce ammonium chloride.

“Relationships like these set the foundation for initiatives like Lithium Valley to succeed.”

One of many projects in the pipeline for the WTC, Lithium Valley promises to be another star of the show in the Kwinana Industrial Area (KIA), and the world’s one-stop shop for core battery materials.

Already Australia is the world’s second largest producer of lithium – used to power things like electric cars – and KIA businesses are looking to value-add by processing the metal and other critical raw materials such as cobalt, vanadium and graphite in Kwinana. Kwinana Industries Council (KIC) President Albert Romano said there was a lot of interest in Lithium Valley and a number of exciting projects were currently underway, leading to new local jobs and economic stimulus.

He said these projects looked to provide lithium buyers with ready-to-go product and fit an overall move to carbon neutrality. “Since 2019 a range of renewable energy projects that support transition to a low carbon economy have been advanced,” Mr Romano said.

“BHP, Tianqi Lithium, Covalent Lithium, Avertas Energy and a range of others are in this space, with a focus on manufacturing battery precursor material for use in electric vehicles and producing energy from alternative fuels.”

According to KIC Director Chris Oughton, projects like Lithium Valley represent a turning point for the WTC, enabling associated industry to grow significantly by adding down-stream value adding processes before advanced products are exported.

KIC economic modelling has revealed that for example the cost of a particular bulk ore concentrate was selling for $800 per tonne on the international market, but if put through a value-adding refining process, it can fetch $15,000 per tonne, leading to figures that would greatly expand the WTC’s current $16 billion output.

Helping to make this all happen is the Westport project, a planned land-backed port in the KIA designed to meet Perth’s future import/export freight needs. Westport involves the deindustrialization of the Fremantle Harbour, allowing the coastal city to focus on servicing and developing the cruise shipping and tourism industries.

Mr Oughton said Fremantle Harbour had been a great trade facilitator, but worsening road and rail congestion was working against it, leaving Kwinana as the optimal location for freight and industrial activity which could even become the epicentre of Australia’s trade relationships if the new port is built to be a very deep port.

Kwinana jetty Kwinana bulk terminal heavy industry lensnation studio photography

“The future we want for the KIA and the WTC is clear,” Mr Oughton said.

“We want it to retain world-prominence as being a well-regarded integrated complex industrial precinct with a great sovereign and environmental reputation.”

“We see its emissions profile moving beyond carbon neutral, with industries deeply embedded in the local production value chain helping to create a circular economy where waste is eliminated.”

“We see local business operating within a value chain that runs from minesite through to the manufacture of high-tech advanced products.

“And hopefully we’ll see the necessary transport and utility infrastructure improvements made that are needed to support our world-class vision.”