Australia’s newest lithium mine officially opened for business today in the Pilbara.

Pilbara Minerals’ (ASX:PLS) Pilgangoora mine is the second-biggest lithium operation in Western Australia.

The 2-million-tonne-per-annum operation, located 120km south of Port Hedland, takes WA’s total operating lithium mines to seven.

Earlier this week, Pilbara Minerals committed to expanding the operation to 5 million tonnes per annum.

The first lithium shipment was farewelled from Port Hedland in early October.

Altura Mining (ASX:AJM) officially opened its lithium mine in the Pilbara in early September, shipping first product to China a month later.

The WA government wants to capitalise on the State’s potential to produce and process lithium and other energy materials.

The aggressive push to build hard rock lithium mines in WA has seen the State become the world’s biggest lithium producer.

The government wants to establish a “Lithium Valley” and the Pilbara has been tossed into the ring as a potential location.

Though it seems more likely a lithium hub would be established at Kwinana or Kemerton south of Perth.

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

And the world’s largest lithium miner, US-based Albemarle, has received environmental approval to build its $1b lithium hydroxide plant at Kemerton, about 17km north-east of Bunbury in WA’s south.

It is expected to be WA’s largest lithium hydroxide plant.

Albemarle is stepping up its investment in Australia because of “a significant acceleration in demand for lithium hydroxide” from battery makers.

Lithium hydroxide is often cheaper to produce from hard rock mines than brine operations like those found in Chile.

Albemarle has a 49 per cent stake in Talison Lithium, which operates the Greenbushes mine — the world’s largest hard rock lithium mine.

“We have an abundance of lithium and other battery minerals, and the McGowan government is committed to making the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity,” WA Mines Minister Bill Johnston said.

The State government is working on its “Future Battery Industry Strategy”, which it says it will share in the coming months.