Lithium at Two-Year Low Hobbles U.S. Bid to Loosen China’s Grip on Market – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Washington Post/Bloomberg – October 2, 2019)

The lowest lithium prices in over two years are hampering a handful of miners that want to challenge China’s dominance in the market. China controls most of the processing that makes the mineral usable in rechargeable batteries, leaving American vehicle makers vulnerable to supply disruptions if trade tensions escalate.

With automakers from Tesla Inc. to General Motors Co. aiming to manufacture more electric cars at home, small companies are seeking to build the first U.S. lithium mines in decades as a step toward forming a local supply chain.

However, financing mines is proving a challenge after a rush of Australian supply dragged down prices by a third from a record in mid-2018. Companies also face stricter environmental rules and regulatory hurdles in the U.S., which currently accounts for just 1.2% of global lithium production.

Read more

Canada ready to provide vital minerals to U.S., Trudeau says – by Robert Fife and Marieke Walsh (Globe and Mail – September 29, 2019)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Canada is ready and willing to supply the United States with strategically important minerals used in consumer and industrial products as Washington steps up efforts to cut its dependence on China.

At a White House meeting in late June, Mr. Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to negotiate a joint strategy on mineral collaboration. The United States is also seeking alliances with Australia, Japan and the European Union, which also fear relying too much on China for these minerals.

“I brought up this at the top of my conversation in my last meeting with Donald Trump, where I highlighted that Canada has many of the rare-earth minerals that are so necessary for modern technologies,” Mr. Trudeau told a news conference on Monday in Toronto. The rare earths are 17 minerals used in high-tech and military products such as smartphones, electric cars and fifth-generation fighter jets.

Read more

Electric-Car Dreams Could Fall a Nickel Short – by Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – September 29, 2019)

Demand for a form of nickel needed in electric-vehicle batteries is starting to outpace supply

SYDNEY—Global producers of electric cars have big ambitions and a bigger problem: Supplies of a key material are running short.

Nickel sulfate is a brilliantly colored crystalline substance used in electric-vehicle batteries. The ore most commonly used to produce it is mined in only a handful of places—and they include some of the most politically or operationally challenging, such as Russia or Canada’s frozen Northeast.

Nickel sulfate accounts for just a fraction of global nickel sales; about 70% of nickel is used in stainless steel. But auto makers will launch more than 200 new plug-in electric vehicles through 2023, consulting firm AlixPartners estimates—and that isn’t counting hybrids. UBS expects batteries in electric vehicles to account for 12% of global nickel demand by then, up from 3% in 2018.

Read more

Canadian lithium-tech companies find traction amid rise of electric cars – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – September 26, 2019)

Canada’s mainstream lithium miners continue to struggle suggesting the next wave of growth will come from technology — not geology

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled to Burnaby, British Columbia to announce his latest climate change initiative at the pilot plant of an upstart company that’s tinkering with lithium-ion battery technology.

His choice of venue revealed much about the opportunities in Canada as a new supply chain takes shape around the growing electric vehicle industry, which relies on lithium-ion batteries, not oil.

Although mining has been a historical strength in Canada, the latest rush around battery metals may end up providing more opportunities to this country’s fledgling technology sector.

Read more

Miners push for U.S. Congress to vote on electric vehicle supply chain bills – by Ernest Scheyder (Reuters U.S. – September 23, 2019)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mining executives eager to speed U.S. production of lithium and other metals for the burgeoning electric vehicle industry are frustrated that the U.S. Congress has yet to pass legislation designed to streamline mine permitting and fund geological studies, among other steps.

Earlier this year, Washington’s trade war with Beijing threatened to curb Chinese shipments to the United States of rare earth minerals used in defense equipment. China is also the world’s largest electric vehicle battery producer, processor of lithium and consumer of copper.

“We don’t have great clarity on what the legislative timelines are,” said Keith Phillips, chief executive of Piedmont Lithium Ltd (PLL.AX), which is developing a lithium mine in North Carolina. “This pending legislation would be a big positive” to help secure investment.

Read more

Australian lithium recovery seen by mid-2020 as EV production revs up – by Melanie Burton (Reuters U.S. – September 17, 2019)

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Strong demand from the electric-vehicle sector alongside supply cuts should help Australian lithium miners recover toward the middle of next year, earlier than expected, industry executives said on Wednesday.

Australian producers of spodumene, a type of concentrated lithium ore that accounts for about half of global lithium supply, have suffered this year after a flood of production sent prices tumbling by more than 20%. Recently, miners said they do not expect a recovery until the end of this year or early 2020.

BMI Managing Director Simon Moores suggested that the wait could be longer, but still earlier than market consensus of 2021. “There are two factors. One is the build-up of the demand picture downstream.

Read more

U.S. ‘falling behind’ in global race to develop electric vehicle supply chain – by Ernest Scheyder (Reuters U.S. – September 17, 2019)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is losing the race to extract and refine minerals used to make electric vehicles and should do more to spur domestic production, a bipartisan group of senators said on Tuesday.

The push comes as China has grown to dominate the market for lithium, rare earths, cobalt and other so-called strategic minerals used to make a plethora of consumer products, a dominance that politicians have said poses a strategic threat to the United States.

The Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a Tuesday hearing in part to keep the topic fresh in the national dialogue even as attention begins to lurch toward the 2020 presidential campaign.

Read more

Canadian economy won’t feel impact of battery metal mining – by Frik Els ( – September 12, 2019)

Hardly three years ago expectations of a demand boom for battery materials used in electric vehicles (EVs) and energy storage reignited interest in the mining sector as the China-induced supercycle in commodities demand started levelling off.

Prices for lithium and cobalt soared (only to fall back again). Same for vanadium. Graphite and rare earth prices made a comeback. Nickel, where EV-related demand is still tiny, was caught up in the euphoria, and the primarily steelmaking metal is holding onto those gains and more.

Longer term mining’s bellwether metal – copper – may benefit the most and aluminum (on a dollar-basis a bigger industry than copper) will feel a sizeable impact.

Read more

Should we mine copper and nickel in Minnesota … to help defeat climate change? – by Walker Orenstein (Minn Post – September 11, 2019)

Just as steel made from Minnesota’s iron ore powered the U.S. military to victory during World War II, supporters of copper-nickel mining in the state say the industry could help defeat another global challenge: the climate crisis.

Demand is on the rise for renewable energy and electric cars that rely on copper, nickel, cobalt and other metals. And as the world continues to transition away from fossil fuels, the need for those minerals will only continue to grow.

In August, Gov. Tim Walz told MinnPost the state should allow mining if it expects to reach a carbon-free future. “There’s 5.5 tons of copper in every megawatt of solar, and it comes from somewhere,” he said.

Read more

Chilean lithium producer SQM bullish on white gold demand; shares rise – by Fabian Cambero (Reuters U.S. – September 11, 2019)

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Shares in Chilean lithium producer SQM jumped on Wednesday after it announced plans to invest about $2.1 billion in the next five years to strengthen its production amid an expected increase in demand for the ultralight battery metal.

About $1.332 billion of this investment would be in lithium operations, with further amounts going toward growing its nitrates and iodine capacity and maintenance between 2019 to 2023, Chief Executive Ricardo Ramos said in a presentation to investors in New York on Tuesday.

B-Series shares in SQM were up more than 5% in trading on Santiago’s blue-chip stock exchange following the promise of beefed-up investment.

Read more

Lithium bulls need to chill out – by Neil Hume (Financial Times – September 10, 2019)

Quick to develop supply will keep a lid on prices

Battery metal bulls suddenly have more to cheer about. This week saw the flashy launch of VW’s ID. 3, a mass-market hatchback that symbolises the potential market for the lithium that powers its battery. Last week, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) bought an 8.5 per cent stake in Australian lithium miner Pilbara Minerals.

The investment by China’s biggest battery producer — and supplier to carmakers including VW, Toyota and Volvo — was seen as a vote of confidence for the sector, which supporters say will be a big beneficiary from decarbonisation and the mass adoption of electric vehicles.

“While there has been commentary talking down the current state of lithium markets, it has belied the significant interest we have continued to see from the strategic players,” said Ken Brinsden, managing director of Pilbara.

Read more

Nickel is the hottest metal in the world right now – by Darren MacDonald (Sudbury Northern Life – September 5, 2019)

Price is up 80% this year, with predictions it could hit US$11 a pound by the end of 2019

The price of nickel on international markets continued its dizzying climb Wednesday, breaking past US$8 a pound before settling in at US$8.17 late in the day.

It’s a surge Terry Ortslan, a nickel analyst at TSO and Associates in Montreal, saw coming in late 2018, when the metal was struggling to hit $5. A few factors were depressing prices at the time, Ortslan said, while predicting a rebound into 2019.

“We all know batteries for electric vehicles are going to be very important new demand source of nickel, as much as stainless steel was 50 or 60 years ago,” he said at the time. “So it’s going to be slow times for the next couple of months, but it’s a short-term issue.

Read more

Is Chile losing ground in the lithium space? – by Tom Azzopardi (Northern Miner – September 4, 2019)

Northern Miner

Chile should lead the world in lithium production. The Salar de Atacama in northern Chile is the world’s largest and richest lithium resource, containing almost half the world’s known reserves, according to the United States Geological Survey. And the region’s geological and climatic conditions make it the most competitive place to produce the mineral.

The country’s only two lithium producers, Albemarle (NYSE: ALB) and Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM) (NYSE: SQM), enjoy production costs of less than US$3,000 a tonne, compared to almost US$4,000 a tonne in some Argentinean salars.

So when lithium demand and prices began to take off earlier this decade, Chile’s economic development agency, Corporación de Fomento de la Producción (CORFO), which owns mineral rights on the Salar, signed new lease contracts with Albemarle and SQM allowing them to increase production to around two million tonnes over the life of the leases.

Read more

[Australia Raventhorpe Nickle Mine] Mining Albany for jobs – by Toby Hussey (The West Australian – September 4, 2019)

A surging nickel price has prompted the owner of a Ravensthorpe mine site to restart operations early next year, creating more than 350 jobs. First Quantum Minerals confirmed on Tuesday it would re-open its Ravensthorpe nickel operation in the next six months, with a region-wide job search beginning next week.

That search will include an Albany jobs fair on Tuesday, when senior First Quantum HR staff will explain the jobs available, skills required, and proposed rosters, and answer applicants’ questions.

The Albany Advertiser understands the company will be looking for employees with skills ranging from qualified electricians to non-qualified roles in administration, agriculture and transport.

Read more

‘Most renewable energy companies’ linked with claims of abuses in mines – by Kate Hodal (The Guardian – September 5, 2019)

Corporate watchdog urges clean-up of supply chains as analysis finds weak regulation and enforcement has led to lack of scrutiny

Most of the world’s top companies extracting key minerals for electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines have been linked with human rights abuses in their mines, research has found.

Analysis published by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), an international corporate watchdog, revealed that 87% of the 23 largest companies mining cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc – the six minerals essential to the renewable energy industry – have faced allegations of abuse including land rights infringements, corruption, violence or death over the past 10 years.

As the global economy switches to low-carbon technologies to combat global heating, demand for minerals could rise by as much as 900% by 2050, according to World Bank estimates. In order to prevent further human rights abuses, renewable energy companies urgently need to clean up their supply chains, said BHRRC senior researcher Eniko Horvath.

Read more