Unexpected leadership changes within a day at the world’s two largest lithium producers underscore concerns over a lack of executive experience in the industry amid a nascent boom for the battery metal.
On Wednesday, Albemarle Corp. announced the replacement of its lithium president John Mitchell, who was named chief of a Chilean exploration company hours later.
Also on Wednesday, Soc. Quimica y Minera de Chile SA said Chief Executive Officer Patricio de Solminihac will leave the company by the end of the year. Both executives will be replaced internally.
Demand for lithium, a key component of rechargeable batteries, is booming as carmakers ramp up production of electric vehicles. Prices have reached historic highs this year as the handful of companies that control the market rush to expand their production capacity.
Albemarle and SQM, which together produce over half of the world’s lithium carbonate supply, will each invest about $500 million this year to boost output. “The lack of technical talent is one of the biggest risks in lithium and one that you rarely hear about,” said Chris Berry, a New York-based energy-metals analyst and founder of House Mountain Partners LLC.
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