COLUMN-The battle for control of the lithium mother-lode – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – June 8, 2018)

LONDON, June 8 (Reuters) – What’s happened to lithium? What was last year’s “next big thing” has been pushed out of the investor limelight by cobalt, another key metallic input to the electric vehicle (EV) revolution and one with an even more troubled supply profile.

Lithium prices have also been taking a breather after their meteoric rise over the 2015-2017 period. The lithium supply chain is currently absorbing a wave of new production, much of it coming from hard-rock miners in Australia.

Some analysts are now forecasting a surplus of lithium over the next two years. Fears of future shortfall, meanwhile, have been damped by the prospect of much higher production in Chile, which sits on the world’s lithium mother-lode in the form of the brine lakes in the Atacama Desert.

Chile was the world’s largest lithium producer in 2016 and has the largest known reserves in the world, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It also has ambitious plans to capitalise on its geological good fortune by building out a downstream processing and battery industry.

However, both Chilean aspirations and future global supply stability are beholden to a battle for control of the country’s biggest producer, SQM.

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