Speaker Spotlight: Colleen Yates

23 May 2019

As we build up to Lithium 2019, we will be interviewing our keynote speakers on some key issues within the industry.

We recently asked Colleen Yates for her views on the industry.

Colleen has been the CEO with Regional Development Australia Perth since 2013, having delivered a number of initiatives to drive new business investment and job growth for the Perth region. Colleen is an accomplished leader who motivates others to achieve what they previously thought to be unachievable. Her leadership style is inclusive, and she possesses stellar strategic thinking ability and down to earth communication skills with the capacity to deliver on outcomes.

Q. How important is flexibility when responding to today’s market conditions for lithium processing (hard rock) in Australia compared to rest of the world (e.g. China and South America).

A. Australia, in particular Western Australia, is well placed to participate across several levels of the energy metals supply chain. China relies heavily on Western Australia for lithium feedstock and this is reflected in their upfront investment in mines securing off-take agreements. Three of the top four lithium converter companies that control 85% of carbonate/hydroxide market for batteries are now building converter facilities in Western Australia. The demand for lithium is not expected to slow anytime soon and both South America and Australia will continue to dominate in this space.

Q. There is a strong focus on lithium to support the development of batteries/capacitors for electric vehicles and energy storage. Would the lithium industry in Australia be affected by other batteries/commodities in the near future? 

A. In the near future? No. Lithium battery technology is fairly stable and is allowing the conversion to electric vehicles and energy storage to happen. Growing with this will be new technologies and IP from new energy storage research that will develop new ways for cathode and anode production. Many of the minerals required for other battery technologies exist in large amounts in Australia, so Australia will benefit from this future technology as well.

Q. Do you foresee a successful battery industry being developed in Australia, and to what extent?

A. Australia can have a battery future – it will not be in the style of the current push of electric vehicles or any other volume driven industry. Where Australia can excel in battery production are those niche industries that will require IP protection and specialised design (such as solid state) for products that are required in industries such as defence, oil and gas and stand-alone energy storage systems.

Q. What message would you like to provide to the delegates – what do you hope will be the main message they will take away from your keynote presentation?

A. That there is way more to the energy storage future than just electric vehicles. Australia cannot afford to sit back and wait for it to happen here; the horse has bolted and we need to catch up quickly. We need to be assertively engaging with countries such as those in the European Union and the United States in securing up-front investment into Australia that will diversify the supply chain and create new business opportunities that will deliver long term job growth for our future generations.

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