Archive | Lithium

Chilean regulators reject Albemarle’s plans to boost lithium output – by Dave Sherwood (Reuters U.K. – November 13, 2018)

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean environmental regulators have rejected plans by Albemarle Corp (ALB.N), the world’s top lithium producer, to expand output from the Salar de Atacama salt flat, according to filings with Chile’s Environmental Assessment Service (SEA).

SEA said in a resolution on Monday that Albemarle’s environmental impact statement, which included plans to build a new plant to produce 42,500 tonnes of lithium carbonate in northern Chile, lacked key information to gauge the project’s impact, prompting an “early termination” of its review.

“The applicant [Albemarle] does not present the details necessary to rule out significant adverse impacts on the quantity and quality of renewable natural resources, including the soil, water and air,” the regulator concluded in the Nov. 12 resolution, which was first reported by Reuters. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Lithium price tensions highlight need for an LME contract – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – November 8, 2018)

LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) – What’s the price of lithium, the “hot metal” at the heart of the electric vehicle (EV) revolution? The spot price in China has collapsed over the course of 2018 as the market absorbs a wave of supply, much of it from the new hard-rock mines that have come on stream in Australia.

Outside of China, however, the picture is very different with the price of lithium in bigger-volume contracts consolidating an upwards trend that has been running since 2015. The divergence shows how pricing lithium is still very much work in progress.

It also explains why the London Metal Exchange (LME) is looking to enter the fray with what would be the first exchange-traded lithium contract. The spot lithium carbonate market has collapsed from an average $26.18 per kilogram in December 2017 to $11.23 in October, according to Fastmarkets MB. Continue Reading →

‘We’re just not there’: Batteries not ready to replace fossil fuels, says lithium miner – by Cole Latimer (Sydney Morning Herald – November 5, 2018)

A battery material miner headed by global energy experts says the world is still a decade away from large batteries and renewables replacing baseload power.

Junior lithium miner ioneer, whose board includes the former chairman of lithium miner Orocobre, James Calaway; the former president of Shell, John Hofmeister; and the former head of Rio Tinto’s minerals and energy division, Alan Davies, said batteries and solar aren’t ready to replace gas or coal.

“Today, when people say you can apply lithium-ion batteries to create baseload from intermittent power they’re just not right,” Mr Calaway told Fairfax Media. “It’s too expensive. It’s a folly to think it will be a switch that just goes from one to the other. People can talk about intermittency, and how batteries will solve intermittency, it’s coming but we’re just not there. Continue Reading →

With $4.1 billion at stake, Nutrien waits on Chilean court to rule on ‘Hail Mary’ lawsuit – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – October 20, 2018)

The giant potash company is tussling with a powerful businessman: the former son-in-law of the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet

Saskatchewan-based Nutrien Ltd. persuaded antitrust authorities earlier this month to sign off on its US$4.1 billion sale of its stake in a South American lithium producer. But now the giant potash company is tussling with a powerful businessman: the former son-in-law of the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Julio Ponce, a billionaire with a checkered past whose father-in-law previously ruled Chile, has filed a lawsuit seeking more time to review Nutrien’s US$4.1 billion sale in Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile to a Chinese buyer.

If the lawsuit delays the sale long enough, some analysts believe Nutrien may be forced to ditch its Chinese buyer and sell its stake in SQM on the open market — for as much as US$1 billion less than the original price. Continue Reading →

Lithium miners’ dispute reveals water worries in Chile’s Atacama desert – by Dave Sherwood (Reuters U.S. – October 18, 2018)

Earlier this year, the world’s two biggest lithium producers publicly celebrated new deals with Chile’s government that will allow them to vastly increase output of the ultralight battery metal from the Atacama, the world’s driest desert.

U.S.-based Albemarle Corp and Chile’s SQM operate just 3 miles (5 km) apart in the remote Salar, a basin in the Atacama that is home to one of the world’s richest deposits of high-grade lithium. Lithium-ion batteries are key components for most consumer electronics, from cellphones and laptops to electric cars.

In celebrating the new contracts, the two companies said they were confident they could significantly boost output without drawing more than their current quotas of lithium-rich brine, or saltwater, that has for millennia accumulated in pools beneath the Atacama. The rivals said each had all the brine they needed for current and future production. Continue Reading →

Battery metals appear to be losing their spark as prices start to fall – by Courtney Goldsmith (World Finance – October 16, 2018)

Cobalt and lithium prices have surged as a rise in renewable energy has increased the need for battery storage solutions. However, the bubble may be about to burst for these metals

The automotive industry is on the verge of an electric revolution. The International Energy Agency has predicted the number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads will triple to hit 13 million by the end of the decade – and by 2030 that number could soar to 125 million.

Meanwhile, the rise of renewable energy generation has boosted demand for battery storage, which can balance intermittent power from green energy sources. The global energy storage market is expected to grow to more than 300GWh between 2016 and 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

These new industries are powering demand for batteries, which has thrust a number of little-known metals into the spotlight. This has led to the price of lithium – a key component in lithium-ion batteries – doubling between 2016 and 2018. Meanwhile, the price of cobalt – a by-product of copper or nickel mining that is used in battery cathodes – has more than tripled since January 2016 (see Fig 1). Continue Reading →

Livent Corp. boss warns of lithium shortage within a decade – by Susanne Barton, Laura Millan Lombrana and David Stringer (Toronto Star/Bloomberg – October 13, 2018)

NEW YORK—The market for lithium will remain tight through 2025 as producers struggle to lift output fast enough to meet demand for the material that’s essential in making batteries for electric vehicles, according to the sector’s newest public company, Livent Corp.

“We think demand is going to grow almost five times larger in 2025 than it was in 2017,” chief executive officer Paul Graves said in an interview Thursday in New York, as the supplier made its trading debut. “Our biggest challenge is producing enough to meet the demand — there’s a much greater risk that this market is consistently in a deficit in the near future.”

The longer-term demand outlook from Livent, a spin off from chemical maker FMC Corp., echoes the view from Chinese competitor, Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co., which this week sold shares in Hong Kong for the first time. Continue Reading →

Chilean court freezes sale of stake in lithium giant SQM to Tianqi – by Fabian Cambero (Reuters U.S. – October 11, 2018)

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – A Chilean court on Thursday suspended the sale of a coveted stake in lithium producer SQM SQM_pb.SN to China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp, saying it will consider a lawsuit filed by the Chilean company’s controlling shareholders, who oppose the deal.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, alleges a previous anti-trust court decision did not give shareholders adequate time to review the agreement between Tianqi and regulators, allowing the Chinese miner to purchase a 24 percent stake in the world’s No. 2 producer of lithium, a metal used to make batteries for electric vehicles.

The agreement is intended to limit the exchange of commercially sensitive information between Tianqi and SQM, though detractors say it does not go far enough. It would give Tianqi the right to have at least three of the company’s eight board seats, fueling concerns that Tianqi would have access to internal SQM documents that it would then use to its own advantage. Continue Reading →

Chile: Questions about Water Availability could Threaten the Mining Industry – by Mervyn Piesse (Future – October 10, 2018)

South America holds two-thirds of the world’s lithium reserves and Chile alone possesses almost half of the world total. Copper is also important to the Chilean economy and accounts for almost half of its export earnings. Many large Chilean copper mines are ageing, however, and the supply of high-grade ore has diminished.

To maintain production, copper producers are increasingly forced to exploit copper sulphide deposits, using a process that is more water-intensive. The Chilean Government is also simultaneously moving to exploit the country’s vast lithium resources, which could further strain water supplies in the resource-rich, but water-poor, Salar de Atacama.

As most of Chile’s lithium is dissolved in briny water drawn from Andean salt flats, it can only be extracted through a lengthy evaporation process. Conversely, Australian lithium reserves are predominantly found in hard rocks. Australia is currently the largest world supplier, despite holding less than ten per cent of the world’s identified lithium resources. Continue Reading →

The Lithium Cartel Is Self-Destructing – by David Fickling (Bloomberg News – October 10, 2018)

China’s incentive to keep the electric-battery metal cheap has soured investors on Ganfeng’s Hong Kong IPO.

If that wasn’t bad enough, look at what just happened to Ganfeng Lithium Co., the world’s second-biggest producer. Its Hong Kong initial public offering has been priced at HK$16.50 a share, the company announced Wednesday, at the bottom of a target range that went as high as HK$26.50.

Even at those prices investors weren’t biting, with the slice available to Hong Kong investors about 40 percent undersubscribed. That’s arguably not surprising, given the run of IPO flops over the past year, including online car-sales platform Yixin Group Ltd. and smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp.

Still, it left a hefty share of the issue in the hands of LG Chem Ltd., Samsung SDI Co. and four Chinese state-linked companies who were acting as cornerstone investors and had subscribed for a fixed dollar amount, plus an additional 2 million shares which were placed with a unit of state-owned Guotai Junan International Holdings Ltd. Continue Reading →

Albemarle shares drop after Chile rejects hike in lithium quota – by Dave Sherwood and Ernest Scheyder (Reuters U.S. – October 8, 2018)

SANTIAGO/HOUSTON (Reuters) – Shares of Albemarle Corp (ALB.N) fell as much as 2.3 percent on Monday following news that Chile’s nuclear regulator refused to increase the company’s quota to sell lithium produced from its Salar de Atacama operation.

The Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN) rejected Albemarle’s March request to increase its quota to sell lithium products by 258,446 tonnes, according to a Sept. 13 agency resolution obtained by Reuters via a Chilean freedom of information request.

Albemarle spokeswoman Andrea Cole said CCHEN’s concerns are of a “technical nature” and that the company would re-submit its request “in the coming weeks,” hoping to resolve the issue. Continue Reading →

Australia resources exports heading for record; country takes lithium crown – by Esmarie Swanepoel ( – October 2, 2018)

ERTH ( – Australia’s resources and energy exports are forecast to hit a record high of A$252-billion in 2018/19, helped along by a decline in the Australian dollar over the past quarter.

In its newest Resources and Energy Quarterly, the Office of the Chief Economist notes that the new outlook has been revised by about A$13.7-billion from the June quarter report, reflecting the weaker Australian/US dollar exchange rate, which is expected to add A$10.6-billion in export values, while higher-than-expected thermal coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices account for the rest of the forecast gain.

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan on Tuesday said that Australia was now the world’s number-one exporter of lithium, while coal was expected to be the nation’s number-one export earner in 2018/19 at more than A$61-billion, narrowly ahead of iron-ore at A$60-billion. Continue Reading →

Albemarle eyes future as pure-play lithium market leader – by Ernest Scheyder (Reuters U.S. – September 27, 2018)

Sept 27 (Reuters) – Albemarle Corp, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to eventually end its dependence on two smaller units to fund growth as global appetite surges for electric-powered vehicles and consumer goods, its chief executive said in an interview.

Tesla Inc and other automakers have helped make lithium one of the most-in demand metals, part of an electrification trend sweeping through a global economy increasingly eager to shed fossil fuels.

Albemarle’s lithium earnings have jumped nearly six-fold since 2014 to more than $500 million annually and should significantly exceed 50 percent of corporate earnings by 2021, Chief Executive Luke Kissam said in an interview. Continue Reading →

SoftBank moves to lock up lithium, the lifeblood of electric cars – by Minoru Satake (Nikkei Asian Review – September 24, 2018)

TOKYO — SoftBank Group is on the hunt for natural resources, particularly the lithium needed for electric car and smartphone batteries.

Demand is expected to surge as more electric vehicles hit roads worldwide. Competition for battery materials is stiff, with Apple rushing to secure supplies of cobalt. And SoftBank considers lithium a priority, as it looks to build a stronger foundation for its other investments, like ride-hailing companies.

In June, SoftBank enlisted the chairman of trading house Mitsui & Co., Masami Iijima, to serve on its board as an outside director. A SoftBank executive said the move was made to “facilitate our future efforts to secure resources.” Continue Reading →

Solid demand to underpin lithium as price slides in 2018 – by Zandi Shabalala (Reuters U.S. – September 17, 2018)

LONDON (Reuters) – An oversupply of lithium this year has nearly halved prices this year in China, halting an unprecedented run for the key component for batteries used in electric vehicles.

But analysts say solid long-term demand should shore up the market after a slight surplus in demand this year. A boom in electric vehicles has boosted prices for components of lithium-ion batteries including lithium and cobalt, as consumers such as car companies to scramble to secure supplies.

But lithium prices have come under pressure in 2018 because miners have ramped up production, consumers destocked supplies and a subsidies in China’s new energy vehicles (NEV’s) market have been pulled back. Continue Reading →