The lithium supply battle starts to heat up – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – September 20, 2016)

LONDON – The lithium rush is on. Not a day goes by without an exploration company telling us about an exciting development on their property, which is now a lithium prospect irrespective of what minerals were originally being hunted.

Today it is the turn of Premier African Minerals, providing “a positive update on its 2,500-meter drilling program at the company’s Zulu Lithium Project near Fort Rixon in Zimbabwe”. Tomorrow it will be someone else.

Everyone, it seems, is trying to jump on the lithium bandwagon, fueled by Tesla and other electric auto pioneers and propelled by rapidly rising prices and the promise of more to come. It is a boom. Whether it turns to a bust is a hotly discussed topic across social media and internet forums.

Skeptics point to past excessive exuberance in metallic bubbles such as rare earths as a warning of what may lie in store. And there is an obvious analogy. While no-one doubts lithium’s demand prospects, the big unknown is how much supply will be there to meet it. Too little or, as turned out to be the case with rare earths, too much?

Key to answering that question will be the behavior of the big four producers that currently dominate the lithium supply landscape. Some of them are now starting to make their moves, first and foremost by extending and tightening their grip on the lithium supply chain.

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