Wesfarmers makes $544mn bid for Australian lithium miner Kidman Resources

By Daniel Brightmore
Wesfarmers has made a second bid of $544mn to buy Australian lithium miner Kidman Resources. Kidman’s major asset is a 50% interest in the Mt Holland...

Wesfarmers has made a second bid of $544mn to buy Australian lithium miner Kidman Resources.

Kidman’s major asset is a 50% interest in the Mt Holland lithium project based in Western Australia, which it owns jointly with Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM), one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of lithium products. 

The project includes the construction of a mine and co-located concentrator at Mt Holland, and a lithium hydroxide refinery in Kwinana. Lithium hydroxide is key to the electric vehicle value chain. 

A number of Kidman’s major shareholders, Board members and key management, which together own approximately 17% of Kidman’s outstanding shares, have indicated their support for the Proposal and have entered into voting agreements with. Wesfarmers. SQM has also indicated its support for the Proposal. 

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Wesfarmers Managing Director Rob Scott said the acquisition of Kidman will provide an attractive investment in a project that will benefit from the global uptake of electric vehicles, while drawing upon the Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers (WesCEF) business’ ability to design, construct, commission and operate complex chemical plants. 

“The proposed acquisition is consistent with our objective of deploying capital in areas where we can deliver attractive returns to our shareholders by leveraging our existing strengths and capabilities. It will underpin the development of the Mt Holland lithium project and deliver Kidman’s shareholders an attractive premium and certain cash return,” Mr Scott said. 

“The acquisition of Kidman provides an opportunity to invest in and develop a large-scale, long-life and high-grade lithium hydroxide project in Western Australia. It also creates a unique partnership with SQM, a global leader in the lithium industry with a long operating history and deep market knowledge. 

“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. We look forward to participating in the Western Australian and Australian Governments’ visions for Western Australia as a global hub for downstream lithium processing.” 

SQM Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Ramos welcomed Wesfarmers’ proposed acquisition of Kidman and investment in the Mt Holland lithium project. 

“Wesfarmers has significant local infrastructure, experience and capability in chemical processing that will be ideally suited to the ongoing development of the Mt Holland lithium project. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with Wesfarmers,” Mr Ramos said. 

The Mt Holland lithium project comprises the development of a globally significant lithium operation. In joint venture with SQM, Kidman is pursuing the development of the lithium deposit to produce spodumene ore and construction of a concentrator at Mt Holland, capable of processing the spodumene ore.

Allied to this will be the production of spodumene concentrate and the construction of a lithium hydroxide refinery in Kwinana to process the concentrate producing approximately 45,000 tonnes per annum of lithium hydroxide at battery grade standards. 

Subject to regulatory approvals and detailed engineering studies, construction of the project is expected to commence in 2020. First production of lithium hydroxide from the refinery is expected in 2022. Wesfarmers’ anticipated share of capital expenditure for the development of the Mt Holland mine, concentrator and Kwinana refinery is estimated at approximately $600mn. 

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