Why Congo could stop the charge of electric vehicles – by Anthony King (Irish Times – May 10, 2018)


Car makers and tech firms rely on cobalt mined in Katanga, the unstable province where Irish soldiers were attacked in 1961

The Congo. September 1961. Irish soldiers in Jadotville are attacked by separatist Katangan forces led by Belgian mercenaries. Jadotville is a copper-mining town in Katanga, a province in south-east Congo that is rich in minerals. The events in Jadotville feature in a popular film on Netflix starring Jamie Doran as Irish commander Pat Quinlan.

Mineral wealth drove the Katangan conflict. Katanga is back in the news. The copper mines again are involved. Car company execs are hearing “Katanga” and fretting about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The reason: it mines most of the world’s cobalt – a sought-after ingredient for electric vehicles (EVs).

Odds are you own Congo cobalt, since each smartphone batteries contains 10 to 20 grams. Electric cars are hungrier for it, packing between six and 15 kilos. Car makers depend on big DRC mines for the metal – not ideal given its predilection for corruption, political instability and war.

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Private firm takes on Codelco for control of Chile lithium deposit – by Fabian Cambero (Reuters U.S. – May 9, 2018)


SANTIAGO (Reuters) – A foreign-backed miner has sued Chile to block state-run Codelco from exploiting a lithium deposit where both have claims, according to a lawsuit filed in March that will be carefully watched by potential investors being courted by the country’s new government.

The little-known and remote Maricunga salt flat is far smaller than the expansive Salar de Atacama, where top lithium producers Albemarle and Chile’s SQM SQM_pb.SN rule supreme.

But the legal conflict at Maricunga under the newly inaugurated conservative government of President Sebastian Pinera may prove a bellwether for foreign miners anxious to invest in Chile, which is home to half of the world’s lithium reserves.

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Europe Has the Potential to Develop Domestic Lithium Sources – by Stuart Burns (Metal Miner – May 7, 2018)


We normally associate Cornwall in England with scones and cream teas … or, if we are really metal nerds, we associate the sometimes sunny southeast country of the British Isles with mining (particularly with tin mining).

The area dominated with igneous morphology has been mined since Roman times for tin, copper and a number of other metals. But one metal, not surprisingly, that has never featured is lithium. I say “not surprisingly” because up to the end of the last century, it barely featured as a metal of value.

Nickel metal hydride batteries dominated the small appliance world and lead acid still served the rest. This century has seen an exponential growth in the use of lithium-ion batteries, from iPhones to electric cars to massive storage barns. The growth has been such that fears are mounting of a market shortage in the next decade, fueled in no small part by state support for electric vehicles (EVs) in Asia.

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China lithium top player boosts investment in emerging Australian miner – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – May 7, 2018)


Sichuan Yahua Industrial Group, one of China’s largest lithium hydroxide and carbonate producers, is injecting further funds into emerging Australian lithium producer Core Exploration (ASX:CXO) as Chinese companies continue to aggressively try securing supply of the key ingredient needed for making the batteries that power electric cars.

Through its subsidiary Yahua International, Sichuan has given Core Exploration $1.4 million as share placement, on top of a $2 million cash injection it provided it in August last year.

With demand for EVs set to skyrocket in the next decade, Chinese companies have inked several deals in the past year to secure steady lithium supplies with mine developers in Australia, South America, Canada and Africa.

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As Electric Cars Multiply, This IPO Will Test Big Lithium Value – by Carolina Millan and Jack Kaskey (Bloomberg News – May 3, 2018)


How much is a lithium business really worth? Enthusiasts of the metal used in rechargeable batteries are about to find out.

FMC Corp. is looking to separate its lithium assets and list a portion of the shares in October, before providing the remainder to FMC shareholders within six months, the Philadelphia-based company said Thursday. It’s set to be the first U.S. initial public offering by a major lithium pure-play.

The decision comes as lithium demand is expected to surge along with purchases of electric vehicles. Demand for the lightweight metal will rise five-fold by 2025, potentially exceeding the world’s production capacity, Chief Executive Officer Pierre Brondeau said in February.

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Are Electric Cars Doomed To Be Just A Niche Market? – by Jean-Marc Vittori (WorldCrunch.com – May 4, 2018)


PARIS — The car of the future will be electric. That is now a certainty. Or rather a consensus. Unless it’s an illusion?

Let’s start at the beginning. A symbol of the industrial revolution of the 20th century, the automobile has nonetheless one flaw: it pollutes. And in fact, it has now become the symbol of pollution, even if the one billion cars in use around the world emit less carbon dioxide than agriculture or coal-fired power stations.

Under pressure from voters, governments are imposing ever lower emission ceilings. The movement has grown with the “dieselgate” scandal and the Paris Conference on Climate Change. France and the United Kingdom have announced their intention to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. The City of Paris is banning old diesel vehicles starting next year.

China, the world’s largest market, goes further. It turns emission standards into a tool for industrial reconquest.

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Tesla delivers bad news for cobalt price, boost for rare earths – by Frik Els (Mining.com – May 3, 2018)


Wall Street is aghast at Elon Musk’s dismissive attitude toward analysts’ probing following a quarter of record (but less than expected) losses for Tesla, but the electric vehicle maker did provide some answers to questions that’s been vexing the mining industry.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a provider of price information and research on battery supply chains, parsed the numbers after Tesla gave a rare indication of the relative proportions of raw materials used in its latest lithium-ion battery for its Model 3.

At first blush it’s not good news for miners of cobalt, a crucial ingredient in batteries used in electric vehicles and cellphones that’s been trading near decade highs above $90,000 a tonne.

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Car owners had a sweet ride, but electric cars will end that – by Eric Reguly (Globe and Mail – April 27, 2018)


Imagine this line from an updated version of The Blues Brothers: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago. We got a full battery charge, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Doesn’t quite work, does it? “We got a full tank of gas” was Dan Aykroyd’s line as he and John Belushi fired up their Dodge Monaco in the first movie. Gasoline-powered cars are branded into North American culture, and the idea of an American battery-powered car culture seems absurd.

How did gasoline-fuelled cars become so popular? The United States has about 263 million registered passenger vehicles. The strength and flexibility of the internal combustion engine explains only part of the story.

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The World’s Lithium King Is Ready to Unleash a Flood of New Supply – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – April 26, 2018)


A little-known Chilean company that until recently churned out mostly crop nutrients may hold a key to the future of electric-vehicle production. And a Chinese mining company is standing ready, poised to grab a big piece of it.

Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA sits on the world’s richest deposit of lithium. It already produces more than 20 percent of the global supply and is about to produce a whole lot more. SQM will at least double and could eventually quadruple lithium capacity, thanks to recent agreements between the company and the Chilean government.

Ramping up production of the mineral, once mined mostly as the main ingredient in anti-schizophrenia drugs, will help meet seemingly insatiable demand from electric-car makers.

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Lithium in abundance, but…: Bolivia’s huge resources face huge challenges, Simon Moores points out – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – April 26, 2018)


It’s a testament to lithium market expectations that companies will compete with each other to do business in Bolivia. When news broke that the country wanted help to develop its fabled Salar de Uyuni, several firms showed willingness to overlook a history of investment confiscation. So has one of the world’s worst mining jurisdictions become serious about opening what just might be the world’s largest lithium resources?

Yes, an April 21 government announcement would seem to indicate. Media reports say the German firm ACI Systems GmbH had been selected out of five applicants from China and one each from Canada and Russia to team up with the state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos, which would hold the lion’s share of a 51%/49% joint venture. The actual agreement has yet to be signed.

Clearly there’s an incentive for Bolivia to change its approach to mining. According to la Razón, the deal calls for $900 million from YLB (all figures in U.S. dollars) and $1.3 billion plus expertise from ACI to develop facilities that would process lithium and manufacture batteries and cathodes, primarily for the European electric vehicle market.

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BATTERY MATERIALS CONF: Nickel intermediates can fill class one supply gap – Vale – by Charlotte Radford (Metal Bulletin.com – April 26, 2018)


Nickel intermediates could provide the most cost-effective means of bringing on-stream additional class one nickel units to serve the growing battery market, according to Frank Nikolic, head of base metals intelligence at Vale.

Nickel demand from the battery sector could increase to 1.8 million tonnes by 2030 from 700,000 tonnes by 2025, according to Vale’s upside forecast. Its more conservative forecast suggests demand of 350,000 tonnes in 2025 and of 1 million tonnes by 2030.

“Can the nickel market respond to such massive demand drivers? Look at intermediates – it’s something that is going to serve the market,” Nikolic said at Metal Bulletin’s inaugural Battery Materials conference in Shanghai last week.

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Charging ahead: The move to battery-powered underground mining fleets is gathering speed – by Peter Braul (CIM Magazine – April 23, 2018)


It is also opening up miners to a new realm of possibility.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), once considered fringe, have rapidly come onto the radar of every OEM in the underground mining industry. Almost all of them are working on new battery-driven models or ways to convert existing products to electrical power. That shift might seem a little outsized, given the number of mines that have actually deployed battery electric technology to full effect.

But Goldcorp’s vice-president of corporate affairs and energy, John Mullally, predicts that the rate of adoption of BEVs will accelerate rapidly over the next five years and expects many underground mines built in Canada will choose battery-powered vehicles over a diesel fleet, and even underground mines already in operation will consider a shift to an all-electric underground fleet.

“By moving away from diesel and by achieving other reductions associated with the use of clean technologies, Goldcorp can avoid more than 7,000 tons of CO2 and eliminate three million litres of diesel fuel, one million litres of propane and 33,000 megawatt hours of electricity every year,” said Mullally, who also stressed the positive impact on air quality and noise level that has already been noted by the development miners at the company’s all-electric Borden mine near Chapleau, Ontario.

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Daimler joins China’s Responsible Cobalt Initiative – by Yilei Sun (Reuters U.S. – April 25, 2018)


LONDON (Reuters) – German carmaker Daimler has joined the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, a program established under a Chinese industry body to tackle risks in the cobalt supply chain arising from artisanal mining.

Cobalt consumers are under pressure to ensure the material they use is not tainted by child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the source of about 60 percent of the world’s cobalt.

Amnesty International says about a fifth of the country’s cobalt production is mined by hand by informal miners including children, often in dangerous conditions. Daimler, owner of the Mercedes Brand, joined the RCI at the start of April, RCI Chairman Sun Lihui told Reuters.

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Raw material suppliers join Finland battery factory project – by Mariaan Webb (MiningWeekly.com – April 25, 2018)


JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Five companies that can supply essential raw materials for an emerging battery industry in Finland have joined a cooperation network that aims to obtain international investment in the battery cluster.

The cooperation network includes the cities of Vaasa and Kokkola, Freeport Cobalt, the world’s largest cobalt refinery and producer of battery chemicals, Norilsk Nickel, the producer of nickel metals and nickel chemicals in Harjavalta, Terrafame Group, the parent company of Terrafame producing nickel, zinc, cobalt and copper in Sotkamo, Keliber, which is preparing to start lithium production in Kaustinen and Kokkola, as well as Beowulf Mining, the owner of a graphite deposit in Heinävesi.

Kokkola Industrial Park, in Kokkola, is home to Freeport Cobalt’s cobalt refinery and Keliber’s lithium refining chemical plant will also be located there.

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Scarcely ahead: tech titans and the resource race (part 1) – by Jessica Clarence (The Strategist – April 20, 2018)


In 1980 US President Jimmy Carter established the Carter Doctrine, asserting the right of the United States to protect strategic interests in the Middle East. The doctrine reflected the reality that oil sustained the US (and world) economy, and without it economies would collapse. ‘Energy geopolitics’—competition between states for energy security—reflected this worldwide resource race; a race as relevant today as it was in the 20th century.

Today we’re approaching an era where clean energy technology outstrips fossil fuels. This means that there will again be an energy race—but the essential component will be the humble battery. Western tech companies and their Chinese counterparts are competing, and right now Western tech companies are on their own, while Chinese companies have the full backing of their government.

Batteries are essential to all wireless electronic equipment. There are many battery technologies, but lithium-ion batteries are the most widely used in portable electronics. Raw materials account for up to 39% of a lithium battery’s cost. The hardest to obtain is cobalt, one of 27 ‘critical’ minerals.

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