Australia needs to ramp up infrastructure investment if we are to maintain a leading position as a lithium producer, says the country’s newest battery metal producer.

Tawana began production at its West Australian Bald Hill project on Wednesday, marking the first new lithium concentrate production in Australia since 2016.

The milestone saw shares close Wednesday up almost 15 per cent at 50c.

“What [the government] do in terms of infrastructure is key, because it’s a semi-bulk and some of the ports are not as well equipped as the ones in the north,” boss Mark Calderwood told Stockhead.

“That’s why WA has been able to move as quickly as it has because it has some infrastructure, but it always needs work of course.”

Australia and Chile are the two biggest producers of lithium. Half of global supply comes out of Australia in the form of spodumene, while the other half comes from the brine deposits of South America.

Spodumene is the main lithium bearing mineral mined from hard rock lithium mines, while lithium brine deposits are found in salt lakes.

TAW shares over the past year.
TAW shares over the past year.

Research is another key area that needs investment, according to Mr Calderwood.

“WA is starting to produce downstream products as well now,” he said. “So as the hydroxide plant in Kwinana comes on stream I think research is going to be key going forward.”

Chinese-backed Tianqi Lithium is spending more than $700 million on building a two-stage lithium processing plant in Kwinana.

Meanwhile, WA government-formed Minerals Research Institute of WA is working with industry to try and establish a new energy industry Cooperative Research Centre.

Tawana brought its Bald Hill project into production quite quickly.

“We only started construction about seven months ago and we’ve really only done a year of drilling on the project,” Mr Calderwood said.

It’s been about five months since Tawana secured $25 million from a lithium industry specialist to start production at the mine in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia.

In total it has taken just nine months for the lithium and tantalum project to get off the ground.

Bald Hill is a 50-50 joint venture between Tawana and Perth-based Alliance Mineral Assets Limited.