Nickel on the upswing – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – January 3, 2018)

“So, we should remember that the many sustainable mining
practices — lowering carbon emissions, mine safety and an
96 per cent reductions in sulphur emissions since 1970, just
to name a few — done in the Sudbury Basin to supply the
necessary nickel, copper and cobalt puts this community in
a leading role in the transition to a green auto future.

“Both the provincial and federal levels of government should
recognize this important fact and ensure none of their green
energy policies hinder the future growth of this strategic
sector.” (Stan Sudol –

It looks like 2018 will be a very good year for nickel. Last month, world metal markets closed for the Christmas break with nickel on an upswing. The metal reached $5.46/pound U.S., more than $1 U.S. higher than the average price of $4.43/pound U.S. in the first half of the year..

The $5.46 U.S. price was also 23 cents higher than the $5.23U.S. recorded back on Nov. 27. The amount of nickel sitting in London Metal Exchange warehouses –another indicator of where prices are headed — is also showing signs of life. On Nov. 27, there were 382,362 tonnes of nickel in the warehouses. But as of Dec. 20, the total had fallen to 373,400.

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The spark plug of the world’s electric cars – by Jonathan Pearlman (Singapore Strait Times – January 3, 2017)

A vast stretch of remote territory in Western Australia has become the epicentre of the world’s electric car and battery storage boom. The area, once famous for sourcing the iron ore that supplied China’s construction boom, is now providing the lithium required for the world’s so-called energy revolution.

Australia is the world’s largest supplier of lithium, with roughly half of the global supply coming from a growing number of mines scattered across the resource-rich state of Western Australia. The amount is due to increase in the coming years as several large-scale projects start extractions.

An expert on mining economics, Professor Allan Trench of the University of Western Australia Business School, said lithium extraction in the region has had “exceptionally fast growth”. He told The Straits Times that the explorations and discoveries are likely to continue.

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Battery Makers’ Great Hope for Cheap Lithium Faces Talent Crunch – by Jonathan Gilbert (Bloomberg News – December 28, 2017)

In the global rush to supply the electric-car revolution, lithium hot spot Argentina is grappling with a shortage of talent. Battery makers are depending on the South American nation’s high-altitude salt flats as a key new supply of the metal, with vast deposits and an investor-friendly government luring prospectors and developers.

Under President Mauricio Macri, Argentina has ambitions to become a lithium superpower, supplying as much as 45 percent of the market, up from about 16 percent now.

Projects have faced unpredictable weather and financing struggles. But perhaps the biggest barrier to development is a dearth of skilled workers.

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Gianni Kovacevic sees even greater price potential for the conductive commodity – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – December 29, 2017)

Evangelist he may be, but Gianni Kovacevic’s hardly a voice crying in the wilderness. His favourite metal displayed stellar performance last year, reaching more peaks than valleys as it climbed from about $2.50 to nearly $3.30 a pound.

But Kovacevic believes copper has a long way to go yet. That will be a function of necessity as the metal shows “the strongest demand growth of any of the major commodities.” Especially persuasive in his optimism, Kovacevic brings his message to the 2018 Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 21 and 22.

As a researcher, commentator and investor who’s also the CEO/chairperson of CopperBank Resources CSE:CBK, co-founder of CO2 Master Solutions Partnership and author of My Electrician Drives a Porsche, he brings new approaches that link topics of energy demand, commodity supply and environmental stewardship.

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Autonomous Cars Need Tougher Batteries, Lithium-Ion Pioneer Says – by Chisaki Watanabe (Bloomberg News – December 26, 2017)

Battery makers must rethink their technology if predictions for a wave of self-driving vehicles pan out, according to one of the inventors of the lithium-ion battery.

In addition to focusing on making batteries more powerful to extend the driving range of single-owner cars, manufacturers will also need to develop devices that can withstand the rigors of near-constant driving and short-range trips from the shared use expected of autonomous vehicles, said Akira Yoshino, who invented a prototype of the lithium-ion battery in 1985.

“A car shared by 10 people means it will be running 10 times more,” Yoshino, an honorary fellow at Asahi Kasei Corp., the world’s biggest maker of separators used in batteries, said in an interview at the company headquarters in Tokyo. “Durability will become very important.”

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Analysis: Bolivia seeks investors to power up lagging lithium output – by Alexandra Alper (Reuters U.S. – December 27, 2017)

UYUNI, Bolivia (Reuters) – Bolivia hopes surging global lithium demand can lure foreign investors to the country where nearly a decade of state-led development has left output far short of goals for the metal, coveted by makers of batteries for devices from laptops to electric cars.

The poor South American nation boasts nearly a quarter of the world’s known resources of the world’s lightest metal. Still, production lags far behind neighboring Chile and Argentina. Bolivia hopes to sign a deal with at least one foreign partner to invest up to $750 million in factories to meet rising demand from China and other countries for lithium-ion batteries.

The country is eager to cash in on tightening supplies of lithium. Experts say spot prices have more than doubled to around $25,000 per ton from below $10,000 in 2015.

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Can electric cars and an expanding global economy power the next commodity supercycle? – by Geoffrey Morgan (Financial Post – December 27, 2017)

Besides the expected ramp-up in electric vehicle manufacturing, economists are predicting that rising global economic growth will make 2018 the year when base metals shine

Mining executive Russell Hallbauer is palpably excited about the components that go inside electric cars.

The chief executive of Vancouver-based Taseko Mines Ltd. can give a detailed description of the length and thickness of the solid copper bus bar that transmits power from each Tesla car’s lithium ion battery to its wheel motors. “That piece of copper probably weighs 50 pounds,” he said.

Hallbauer’s enthusiasm for electric cars is warranted. The market for such vehicles is expected to grow to 11 million cars sold in 2025 from 330,000 in 2015 , according to Morningstar forecasts, and copper miners such as Taseko expect that will create a lot of demand for copper bus bars.

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Can the electric car industry bring this ghost town back to life? – by Sidney Stevens (Mother Nature Network – December 31, 2017)

Like so many mining towns throughout North America, Cobalt, Ontario has seen better days. The silver rush that transformed the modest community, located 300 miles north of Toronto, into a vibrant boomtown during the early 1900s has long since died away.

Today, the sleepy hamlet — some call it a ghost town — still bears scars from those heady, get-rich-quick days. The borough, built atop a honeycomb of abandoned mining tunnels, is not only littered with waste rock and capped mine shafts but also plagued by poverty.

But its fortunes could soon reverse. Cobalt, population 1,100, is poised to flourish once more due to its rich stores of the metal cobalt. Ironically, the town known for its silver was actually named for this shiny, bluish-gray ore. At the time it was mostly ignored. But not anymore.

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RPT-COLUMN-Blue skies, green cars and a year of revolution for industrial metals – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – December 21, 2017)

LONDON, Dec 22 (Reuters) – A little bit of metals history was recorded on March 29 this year. The small Central American country of El Salvador became the first nation to ban all exploration, mining and processing of metals.

Don’t worry if you didn’t notice. El Salvador doesn’t have any operating mines. It was going to have a gold mine, but in a public debate pitting economic growth against clean water supply, water won. Such environmental push-back against mining has become an ever more common feature of the metals industry.

But this year has marked a tipping point with China, a dominant producer of so many industrial metals, launching its own clamp-down on pollution. Multiple supply chains from aluminium to zinc have been disrupted with largely bullish, albeit at times chaotic, price impact.

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Lithium Penny Stock Delivers Dizzying Gain—With Some Promotion Behind It – by Danielle Bochove, Andreo Calonzo and Natalie Obiko Pearson (Bloomberg News – December 21, 2017)

The electric-vehicle revolution is propelling impressive gains in commodity and equity prices around the world, few more dizzying than Liberty One Lithium Corp. The penny stock, which has changed its name twice since 2016 and is years away from an operating mine, surged 250 percent in October, when both the price of lithium and a benchmark of producers posted single-digit returns.

Along with receiving permits to drill in Argentina and rising commodity prices, Liberty One has been boosted by Pyronix Media, one of a number of companies paid in cash and stock to sing the praises of clients through email, websites and social media. Such online promotions have led at least one U.S. exchange to change its disclosure rules.

“There’s a lot of hype and expectation that probably will never be realized, and it’s very hard for small investors to sort those out,” Joe Lowry, a lithium industry consultant and former FMC Corp. executive, said by telephone, without referring to specific companies. “Drilling a few holes doesn’t constitute an ore body. But that doesn’t stop them pumping the stock.”

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Could Cobalt Choke Our Electric Vehicle Future? – by Prachi Patel(Scientific American – January 2019)

Demand for the metal, which is critical to EV batteries, could soon outstrip supply

An electric car future is speeding closer; economic analysts project that a third of all automobiles could be battery-powered by 2040. Most of these vehicles rely on large lithium-ion batteries, prompting worries about whether the world’s lithium supply can keep up.

But another element—cobalt—is a bigger concern, scientists reported in October in the journal Joule.

“The best lithium battery cathodes [negative electrodes] all contain cobalt, and its production is limited,” says study lead Elsa Olivetti, a materials scientist and engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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What Needs to Happen Before Electric Cars Take Over the World – by Jack Ewing (New York Times – December 18, 2017)

On the slope of a thickly forested Czech mountain, three men in hard hats and mud-spattered fluorescent vests dig for the metal that could power a new industrial revolution.

They watch carefully as a mobile rig, mounted on tank treads, hammers and spins a drill bit hundreds of yards into the bedrock. Water gushes from the bore as the bit punctures an underground spring.

The men are prospecting for new sources of lithium, a raw material now found primarily in China and Chile that could become as important to the auto industry as oil is now. Faster than anyone expected, electric cars are becoming as economical and practical as cars with conventional engines. Prices for lithium-ion batteries are plummeting, while technical advances are increasing driving ranges and cutting recharging times.

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Chinese investment firm snaps up Giustra-backed Lithium X – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – December 19, 2017)

A Chinese investment firm is buying a Frank Giustra-backed lithium exploration company run by a 29-year-old rookie CEO.

On Monday, Nextview New Energy Lion Hong Kong Ltd. announced it is paying $265-million for Lithium X Energy Corp. – the second investment by the Chinese investment firm in a Canadian-listed lithium company in the past few days.

The latest deal was announced in the midst of an ebullient market for battery metals such as cobalt and lithium, which have soared in price in recent years thanks to demand from the electric car industry.

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The Near Future of Electric Cars: Many Models, Few Buyers – by Keith Naughton (Bloomberg News – December 19, 2017)

There will be more than 100 different battery-powered vehicles available in five years, despite little interest so far from drivers.

Automakers with ambitious plans to roll out more than a hundred new battery-powered models in the next five years appear to be forgetting one little thing: Drivers aren’t yet buzzed about the new technology.

Electric cars—which today comprise only 1 percent of auto sales worldwide, and even less in the U.S.—will account for just 2.4 percent of U.S. demand and less than 10 percent globally by 2025, according to researcher LMC Automotive. But while consumer appetite slogs along, carmakers are still planning a tidal wave of battery-powered models that may find interested buyers few and far between.

“When you hear people talk about the tipping point, it’s really that they’re counting the number of product offerings,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford Motor Co.’s global head of product development and purchasing, said of electric cars. “Nobody can cite what the actual demand will be.”

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Electric cars have made this once obscure metal the hottest commodity of 2017 – by Eshe Nelson (Quartz Media – December 18, 2017)

2017 belonged to cobalt. The silvery-blue metal, which is mined as a by-product of copper and nickel, is a crucial element in the lithium-ion batteries that power everything from electric cars to Apple products.

This year, it has completely outshone the rest of the commodities market. The price of cobalt surged 120%, while the Bloomberg commodity index fell 4%.

The market for cobalt has increased from about $4 billion last year to about $8 billion, according to Bloomberg. Traders and automakers are betting that consumers will increasingly switch to electric vehicles as several countries around the world try to drastically cut down carbon emissions by banning gas and diesel cars.

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