Welcome to the July 2022 edition of the lithium miner news. The past month saw another huge month of lithium news.
A key theme is the West starting to make plans and investments to attempt to catch up with China’s massive lead in securing lithium and other EV battery raw materials and refining. We also saw Ford offer a strategic A$300m loan to support Australia’s Liontown Resources [ASX:LTR] reach production (in Q2, 2024) and hence secure lithium supply. Much more of this is likely to come in the next few years.
The Benchmark Mineral Intelligence release: “The energy storage revolution has arrived” was a landmark piece of news, forecasting lithium-ion battery capacity to increase at a staggering CAGR of 47% to 2032. That means the industry roughly doubles in size every 2 years. Wow!!! The lithium boom is here, right now.
Lithium price news
Asian Metal reported during the past 30 days, 99.5% China lithium carbonate spot prices were up not updated (up 4.58% the past 60 days) and China lithium hydroxide prices were not updated. Lithium Iron Phosphate (Li 3.9% min) prices were up 1.32%. Spodumene (6% min) prices were up 2.91% over the past 30 days.
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (“BMI”) as of late June reported China lithium carbonate prices of RMB 469,000 (US$69,875) (battery grade), and for lithium hydroxide RMB 472,500 (US$70,400).
Metal.com reported lithium spodumene concentrate (6%, CIF China) price of CNY 33,761 (~USD 4,996/mt), as of July 22, 2022.
China Lithium carbonate spot price – CNY 475,500 (~USD 70,373)
Lithium demand versus supply outlook
2021 IEA forecast growth in demand for selected minerals from clean energy technologies by scenario, 2040 relative to 2020 – Increases Of Lithium 13x to 42x, Graphite 8x to 25x, Cobalt 6x to 21x, Nickel 7x to 19x, Manganese 3x to 8x, Rare Earths 3x to 7x, And Copper 2x to 3x
UBS’s EV metals demand forecast (from Nov. 2020)
Rio Tinto’s lithium emerging supply gap chart (October 2021)
Lithium demand v supply forecast by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence in Q3 2021
If supply can be rapidly ramped in future years it can come close to meeting surging demand
UBS forecasts Year battery metals go into deficit (chart from 2021)
Macquarie’s lithium demand v supply forecast (July 2021) – Deficits from 2022 growing bigger from 2027
BMI 2022 lithium forecast – Deficits from 2021 to end 2025
UBS lithium demand v supply forecast to 2030
Global lithium-ion battery gigafactory pipeline – now at 304 and 6,387.6 GWh as of May 2022
Lithium market and battery news
On June 23 Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported:
The energy storage revolution has arrived …but who will have dominion over the megatrend of our times?… In 2022, lithium ion battery demand is growing at its fastest ever rate and is on course for 50% year-on-year growth… The raw materials fuelling these gigafactories have also witnessed a coming of age moment.
Lithium supply has increased nearly three-and-a-half times and will be over a 600,000 tonne industry in 2022 – the first time it has topped the half a million tonne mark.
Cobalt demand from the battery industry will reach over 70% of total global volume in 2022, the highest proportion of demand of any of the battery minerals, followed closely by lithium.
Nickel sulphate supply, the battery chemical needed by the lithium ion battery industry, will approach 500,000 tonnes in 2022, more than a 3.5x increase over a 5 year period.
Graphite remains the highest intensity mineral in the lithium ion battery by weight with over 570,000 tonnes of natural flake to be consumed in 2022.
Yet, consumer demand for electric vehicles surpasses our ability to supply them. Waiting times for EVs are lengthening, a lithium ion battery shortage is hitting many automakers, and, most crucially, key raw material prices are at all time highs.
On June 27 Electrive reported:
Gotion High Tech signs lithium plant deal in Argentina… The agreement with Argentina’s state-owned mining company Jujuy Energía y Minería Sociedad del Estado (JEMSE) provides for the establishment of a joint venture, provisionally named Gotion Jujuy Mining, to build and operate a refinery for battery-grade lithium carbonate in the Perico free trade zone in Jujuy province. The initial plan is for an annual capacity of 10,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate, with the possibility of expanding by a further 50,000 tonnes based on market demand… Beyond the lithium carbonate refinery, Gotion and JEMSE have decided to cooperate in other areas of the lithium supply chain. This involves the downstream business: in the province of Jujuy, the lithium carbonate is to be processed into cathode materials, which Gotion will install in battery cells in Argentina… The deal should support Gotion’s inexorable expansion… Gotion is known to be supported by VW and was the fourth-largest cell manufacturer from China in May – behind CATL, BYD and CALB, Gotion had a market share of 4.92 per cent… Already this year, Gotion achieved industrialisation of the battery cell with LFP chemistry which offers an energy density of 210 Wh/kg.
On June 27 Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported:
G7 launches $600 billion global infrastructure investment plan including battery spend. Leaders of the G7 democracies launched a $600 billion plan to invest in global infrastructure in low and middle income countries over the next five years, including in projects relating to the battery supply chain. The Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) said it will advance four priorities: climate and energy security, digital connectivity, health and health security, and gender equality and equity.
On June 28 SupChina reported:
CATL’s new battery is a leap forward but also a precursor of something radical to come. The Qilin 3.0 represents the latest evolution of a lithium battery… The Qilin uses cell-to-pack [CTP] technology… With an energy density of 255 watt hours [WH] per kilogram, the Qilin features CATL’s large surface cooling technology, with the cooling component located between the cells (instead of at the bottom of the cells), thus greatly increasing the area where heat can escape. The Qilin can… charge up to 80% battery capacity in 10 minutes, all of which outperforms the Tesla 4680 battery cell that was launched in 2020… the Qilin has four main advantages: safety, long life span, high energy, and fast charging ability… the Qilin battery is merely the latest evolution of a lithium battery, and a mere precursor to a truly groundbreaking battery that is coming soon. This new battery, according to Zeng, will be based on “condensed matter,” which he says “no one has heard about.”
On June 29 ABC reported:
Ford Motor Company provides loan to Liontown Resources to develop Kathleen Valley lithium mine… A $545 million lithium mine in Western Australia has been approved for development after its owners, ASX-listed Liontown Resources, signed a deal today with US giant Ford Motor Company to supply the battery metal and back the project with a massive loan. Today’s deal between Perth-based Liontown and Michigan-headquartered Ford is for the annual supply of up to 150,000 dry metric tonnes of spodumene concentrate for five years, starting from 2024… As part of the deal, Ford will provide Liontown with a $300 million loan to fund the project’s development.
On June 29 BusinessWire reported:
FREYR Battery sanctions construction of its inaugural Gigafactory. Increases plant capacity to 29 GWh, based on $1.6 billion in identified debt financing support, catalyzed by the Norwegian National Battery Strategy and Norway’s Export Credit Agency Eksfin’s indication of up to EUR 400 million in loans and/or guarantees. FREYR’s Board of Directors has sanctioned construction of Giga Arctic (combined Gigafactories 1 & 2), the company’s first battery manufacturing facility under development in Mo i Rana, Norway. FREYR is increasing the nameplate capacity of Giga Arctic to 29 GWh in response to improving battery supply-demand dynamics, ongoing commercial success, significant progress in developing supply chain channels for key raw materials and equipment, continued technical and product improvements, and project financing visibility… FREYR is raising its installed annual production capacity target to more than 200 GWh by 2030, twice the company’s previous ambition FREYR has recently secured a conditional offtake agreement (“COA”) with a major European energy technology customer for 25 GWh of battery cells from 2024 to 2028, in addition to the more than 100 GWh of previously announced COAs.
On June 30 Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported:
Sibanye seeks control of Keliber in boost to Europe’s lithium supply. South African precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater moved to take control of the Keliber lithium hydroxide project in Finland, as part of a planned €446 million financing that aims to accelerate its development. Sibanye said it would increase its ownership of the project from 30% to just over 50% for €146 million and then offer existing shareholders €196 million to raise it further to 80%. It would also support a further €104 million capital raise by the company. The deal could help move the project into construction, providing Europe with a homegrown source of lithium for its automotive industry.
On July 5 Investing News reported: “5 Key Takeaways from Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Raw Materials Conference 2022.”
On July 5 Morningstar reported:
Lithium stocks a bright spot in basic materials. Market’s decline leaves over half of the sector undervalued, trading at 4 or 5 stars. Lithium demand will grow nearly 5 times by 2030 from 2021, largely due to increased electric vehicle adoption. As lithium demand grows, higher-cost lithium sources will need to be tapped, driving up the marginal cost of production. The lithium market is currently undersupplied, leading to prices at all-time highs. Because of demand growth outpacing new supply, we expect prices will remain above the marginal cost of production of $12,000 per metric ton through the remainder of this decade, selling at $70,000 per metric ton in 2023 and averaging in the mid-$30,000 range over the decade. This should allow low-cost producers to generate excess returns.
Morningstar’s lithium price forecast 2022 to 2030
On July 7 Investing News reported:
Lithium producers bullish on demand, cooperation key for global supply growth… “The executive from SQM, which operates its primary lithium business in the Salar de Atacama in Chile, said the market is growing and will need new supplies of 200,000 to 300,000 metric tons [MT] of lithium every year. That was about the size of the market in 2018. “That means that you need roughly 8 to 10 new projects coming on stream every year,” he added.”
On July 7 Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported:
Volkswagen began construction of its first global battery plant at Salzgitter in Germany on Thursday, as the automaker launched a new battery business that will expand across Europe and into North America, as part of a plan to produce its own batteries. The legacy automaker said its new battery company, PowerCo, would invest more than €20 billion together with partners by 2030 into the battery supply chain, as part of a move to increase vertical integration to help lower costs.
On July 13 Seeking Alpha reported:
Panasonic picks Kansas for new $4B electric vehicle battery factory… Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said the new factory would be the largest economic development project in the state’s history, and would employ 4K people. The new plant will be in addition to the Sparks, Nevada, Gigafactory, which Panasonic (OTCPK:PCRFY) jointly operates with Tesla (TSLA) and is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery factories, and reasonably close to the new factory Tesla recently opened in Austin, Texas.
On July 13 CBC reported:
Trudeau announces deal to build $1.5B electric vehicle battery plant in Ontario. $1.5-billion investment by Umicore will make Canada a global player in electric vehicles, PM says… the facility will supply materials for one million electric vehicles a year. Umicore, a multinational corporation based in Belgium, will transform metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium into cathode active battery materials [CAM] at the new eastern Ontario site… Ontario’s Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli said the $1.5-billion investment will build the first industrial-scale manufacturing plant of its kind in North America. The company will start on construction in 2023, with the site expected to be fully operational by the end of 2025
Note: Bold emphasis by the author.
On July 13 Bloomberg reported:
US says it will back miners to stop China’s weaponization of battery metals… “Our concern is that critical minerals could be vulnerable to manipulation, as we’ve seen in other areas, or weaponization,” Granholm said Wednesday in a meeting in Sydney with companies including BHP Group, Rio Tinto Group and Lynas Corp. “We are very serious about establishing strong relationships with Australia, and with you and with your potential customers for offtake”… Producers in nations including Australia can also access support through agencies including the Department of Energy’s loan programs office, Granholm said at the Wednesday meeting… Syrah Resources Ltd., a Melbourne-based graphite producer with facilities in Mozambique and Louisiana, in April won a $107 million commitment from the loan programs office. Rare earths producer Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. in June signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to establish a plant in Texas.
On July 14 Newsweek reported:
Ernst, Manchin Seek to End U.S. Dependence on China for Defense Materials… Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa is seeking to address this issue by teaming up with her Senate Armed Services Committee colleague, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to sponsor the Homeland Acceleration of Recovering Deposits and Renewing Onshore Critical Keystones Act, known as the HARD Rock Act… What this act will do is it pushes the Pentagon to refocus on our National Defense Stockpile so that we can secure the materials from partners and allies and further expand our own domestic supply and then end that reliance on our adversaries,”… Some of the minerals appearing on the list that the NDS requires for its stockpile include cobalt, lithium, titanium alloy, aluminum and zinc.
On July 14 Investing news released a video: “Fastmarkets’ William Adams: Lithium prices have yet to peak, but expect surprises.”
On July 14 Nikkei Asia reported: “Panasonic to build $4bn EV battery plant for Tesla in U.S.”
On July 15 Benchmark Mineral intelligence reported:
Tesla lays down 2 TWh battery challenge to Panasonic. Panasonic Energy is building a pipeline of 2 terawatt-hours (TWh) of battery and raw material supplies for Tesla as part of a new mandate from the Elon Musk-led company, according to Chief Technology Officer Shoichiro Watanabe. Panasonic will need to build up its battery supply chain including mining to meet the goal, Watanabe said at the Sydney Energy Forum. The move comes as Panasonic plans to spend $4 billion to build a second gigafactory in Kansas to target growth in the US auto market. The Japanese battery producer is Tesla’s largest supplier due to the Nevada gigafactory.
On July 18 the SMH reported:
‘Looking at opportunities everywhere’: Rio Tinto on the hunt for more lithium assets… is assessing an earlier start date for its undeveloped mine in Argentina… is pursuing a deeper push into a range of minerals including lithium and copper… the company was actively searching for new acquisition opportunities, including in Western Australia, which was home to some the world’s largest hard-rock lithium deposits… Kaufman said forecasts for electric cars to make up 50 per cent of light vehicles on the road by 2030 meant that world’s lithium consumption would surge from 350,000 tonnes of today to 3 million tonnes. Meanwhile, even if all new lithium mines being planned across the globe proceeded, they would only bring total supplies to 1 million tonnes, she said.
On July 18 Investing News reported: “Joe Lowry: Lithium’s time has come, expect tight market for rest of decade.” (audio)
On July 21 Seeking Alpha reported:
Musk says lithium refining a ‘license to print money,’ stock investors jump in… Musk told Tesla’s Q2 earnings conference call that constraints on availability of lithium that have pushed prices higher are not the result of scarcity of raw materials, but because of limited global capacity to deliver ultra-high purity battery-grade hydroxide and carbonate chemicals into battery supply chains. “I’d like to once again urge entrepreneurs to enter the lithium refining business,” Musk said. “The mining is relatively easy, the refining is much harder.”
On July 21 Bloomberg reported:
Batteries are already helping power grids weather a hotter world… In California, batteries now contribute 60 times more to peak capacity than they did in 2017 – a sign of things to come elsewhere, too… California’s grid operator now says that batteries comprise 6% of the state’s maximum on-peak capacity… Batteries are a bigger component of summer maximum on-peak capacity than wind (which, as Texas indicates, generates little during the hottest times of the day) and geothermal combined. They’re also a bigger component than nuclear power…
Two standout videos (from Rock Stock Channel) for the past month that all serious lithium investors should watch were:
- “E54: Battery Minerals Intelligence. Benchmark’s Simon Moores.” Simon Moores gave his views on lithium demand v supply, pricing, and the outlook for the sector. Howard Klein and Rodney Hooper also shared their views, all very positive towards lithium.
- Lithium Pricing & Investment Structures – Cowen’s David Deckelbaum sharing his views that the lithium producers look very undervalued compared to most forecast lithium prices, as analysts are using prices of only about $15-25/kg which is well below current spot and contract prices.
Lithium miner news
On June 27 The Financial Post/Reuters reported:
Albemarle Corp plans to build a lithium processing plant in the United States that would produce as much of the electric vehicle battery metal as the entire company produces today, a bullish bet on America’s all-electric future… The company as a result aims to build a processing plant with 100,000 tonnes of annual capacity in the U.S. Southeast somewhere within rail access of a major port… it will be key as the company aims to boost its overall lithium production capacity fivefold to 500,000 tonnes annually by 2030. The U.S. plant would be of a similar design to a processing plant Albemarle recently opened in Kemerton, Western Australia… The plant would be supplied from lithium extracted from the company’s Kings Mountain mine in North Carolina, which is currently mothballed but may reopen as soon as 2027.
On June 29 Bloomberg reported: “Albemarle urges US to cut red tape to boost lithium supply chain.”
- July 2022 – Wodgina Lithium Mine (60% ALB: 40% MIN) Train 2 restart. Note the recent non-binding agreement will (if completes) move Wodgina to a 50% ALB: 50% MIN JV.
- ~Mid 2022 – 50ktpa Kemerton Lithium Hydroxide Plant converter in WA to commence battery grade lithium production (60:40 joint venture between Albemarle and Mineral Resources Limited).
NB: The Greenbushes Mine in WA is owned by Albemarle 50%, Tianqi Lithium Corporation 25%, and IGO Limited 25%.
Sociedad Quimica y Minera S.A. (NYSE:SQM), Wesfarmers [ASX:WES] (OTCPK:WFAFY), Covalent Lithium (SQM/WES JV)
On June 24 Mining.com reported:
Lithium king crowned in dictatorship sees $3.5bn fortune at risk… Ponce, 76, has become a target at home amid the boom times for lithium, a key mineral for making electric vehicle batteries. One of his main adversaries may turn out to be Chile’s 36-year-old president, Gabriel Boric, who supports a constitutional rewrite that may impose environmental curbs on mining and wants to create a national lithium company that could compete with SQM, which sits on the planet’s richest deposit… But there are signs that the lithium business is about to get increasingly complicated in Chile, with authorities recently rescinding new contracts amid calls for the state to get a bigger share of the mineral windfall… Radical proposals such as nationalizing the entire industry have fallen short in the constitutional process. But if the new charter opens the way for the mineral-rich brine under the Atacama to be considered a type of water – an idea the company disputes – that type of mass extraction may come under threat. There are already calls from some communities and politicians to move to a more selective or direct process of mining that would mean far less evaporation – and probably less output and profit. Both SQM and Albemarle Corp., the only two lithium producers in Chile, are investigating such techniques, which are relatively untested commercially.
H2 2024 – Mt Holland production to begin (SQM/Wesfarmers JV) as well as their lithium hydroxide [LiOH] refinery.
Investors can read SQM’s latest presentation here or the latest Trend Investing article on SQM here.
Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium [SHE:002460] [HK: 1772] (OTC:GNENF) (OTCPK:GNENY)
On July 2, Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium announced:
Annual production of 10GWh battery project put into operation… The fully automated production line of the new lithium battery with an annual output of 10GWh will be Put into operation, the production capacity of Ganfeng lithium electric power and energy storage batteries has been greatly improved; the first batch of 50 Dongfeng E70 electric vehicles equipped with Ganfeng solid-state batteries has been officially delivered, and the commercialization path of solid-state batteries has become clearer.
On July 2, Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium announced:
Fengcheng project officially started. On May 23, the groundbreaking ceremony of Ganfeng Lithium’s 50,000-ton lithium battery new energy material project was held in Yichun City, Jiangxi Province. The project covers a total area of about 428 mu and plans to invest 2 billion yuan to form an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons of LCE lithium-ion new energy materials by extracting lithium through spodumene.
On July 11 Reuters reported:
China’s Ganfeng Lithium to buy Lithea Inc for $962 million… Privately owned Lithea owns rights to two lithium salt lakes in Argentina’s mineral-rich Salta province… Rio Tinto said in December it would buy the Rincon lithium project in Argentina’s Salta province for $825 million… Lithea is owned by LSC Lithium B.V., which is in turn owned by Pluspetrol Resource Corp, an oil and gas mining firm.
Investors can read the latest Trend Investing article on Ganfeng Lithium here.
(Chengdu) Tianqi Lithium Industries Inc. [SHE:002466], Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia (TLEA) is a JV with Tianqi Lithium (51%) and IGO Limited (49%). TLEA owns the Kwinana lithium hydroxide facility in WA
On July 6, Bloomberg reported: “Tianqi Lithium raises $1.7 billion in year’s biggest Hong Kong listing…”
You can watch a good recent Tainqi lithium CEO video interview here, where he discusses lithium market demand and supply issues.
Livent Corp. (LTHM)[GR:8LV]
On July 6, Livent Corp announced: “Livent publishes 2021 sustainability report.”
You can read the Trend Investing Livent article here when Livent was trading at US$7.26.
Allkem [ASX:AKE] [TSX:AKE] (OTCPK:OROCF)(formerly Orocobre)
On July 20, Allkem announced: “June 2022 quarterly activities report. Record revenues and annual production volumes achieved.”
- “Mt Cattlin achieved record financial year production of 193,563 dry metric tonnes (“dmt”) of spodumene concentrate in FY22.
- In the June quarter, 24,845 dmt of spodumene concentrate was produced and 37,837 dmt was shipped, generating record revenue of US$188.9 million with a gross cash margin of 84% based on cost of production and average pricing of US$4,992 /dmt CIF for SC 5.4%.
- Customer demand in the spodumene market remains robust and spodumene concentrate pricing in the September quarter is expected to be higher than the June quarter.
- Annual production at the Olaroz Lithium Facility2 reached a new record of 12,863 tonnes of lithium carbonate for FY22, 47% of which was battery grade material in line with targets.
- During the quarter production and sales of lithium carbonate were 3,445 tonnes and 3,440 tonnes respectively. This generated record revenue of ~US$141 million with a gross cash margin of 90% based on average pricing of US$41,033/tonne FOB3 (45% battery grade lithium carbonate).
- The lithium carbonate sales price for the September quarter is expected to remain similar to that of the June quarter.”
- “Olaroz Stage 2 reached 88% completion with first production expected in late H2 CY22. Total Allkem resources at the Olaroz and immediately adjacent Cauchari basins are now 22.5 Mt LCE in all resource categories, making it one of the largest lithium resources in the world.
- At Naraha, plant commissioning activities including water testing have been undertaken and first production is expected by late September.
- The first pond at Sal de Vida (“SDV”) Stage 1 is complete and filled with brine. Construction of the first two strings of ponds has reached 32% completion with first production expected in H2 CY23. During the quarter the SDV development plan was restated with a 40% increase in production to 45ktpa in two stages. A 10% increase in the resource to 6.85Mt LCE has also been defined.
- At James Bay, the clarification process for the ESIA continues at both Provincial and Federal levels in conjunction with the Cree Nation.”
Financials and Corporate
- “Strong operating performance and high sales prices have delivered record group revenue4 for the quarter of approximately US$337 million and a group gross operating cash margin1 of approximately US$292 million (~A$0.67/share for the June quarter).
- Group revenue for FY22 (including Mt Cattlin from merger date, 25 August 2021) was US$762 million and group gross operating cash margin for the same period was approximately US$594 million (excluding corporate and other non-operating costs).”
Upcoming catalysts include:
- Q3 2022 – Naraha lithium hydroxide plant (10ktpa) commissioning (ORE share is 75%).
- H2 2022 – Olaroz Stage 1 expansion commissioning followed by a 2 year ramp to 25ktpa. When combined with Stage 1 total capacity will be 42.5ktpa.
- H2 2023 – Sal De Vida Stage 1 production targeted to begin and ramp to 15ktpa. SDV Stage 2&3 combined will begin about 2025 and ramp to an additional 30ktpa. Total combined when completed will be 45ktpa.
You can read the latest investor presentation here. You can read the latest Trend Investing Allkem article here.
Pilbara Minerals [ASX:PLS] (OTC:PILBF)
On June 29, Pilbara Minerals announced: “Pilgangoora production, shipping and cash update. 54% increase in June quarter production drives significant increase in cash balance.” Highlights include:
- “Significant increase in estimated June Quarterly production to 123-127,000 dry metric tonnes (dmt) of spodumene concentrate (~54% increase from the March Quarter: 81,431dmt).
- FY22 annualised production now expected to be in the range of 373-377,000 dmt (~33% increase from FY21: 281,098dmt), and at the upper end of the previous guidance range of 340-380,000dmt.
- Estimated shipments for the June Quarter of ~127-132,000dmt (~ 118% increase from the March Quarter: 58,383dmt).
- Total shipments for FY22 expected to be in the range of 355-360,000dmt (~26% increase from FY21: 281,440dmt).
- 30 June 2022 cash balance expected to be in the range of ~A$850-855M, inclusive of ~A$269M of irrevocable bank letters of credit (March Quarter: A$284.9M, inclusive of A$75.2m of LOC’s).”
On June 29, Pilbara Minerals announced: “Pilgangoora production capacity. Board approval for P680 Project to deliver a further 100,000tpa of production capacity from pilgan plant.” Highlights include:
- “Final Investment Decision (FID) made to increase the Pilgangoora Operation’s nameplate production capacity from ~ 580,000 to 680,000tpa of spodumene concentrate (P680 Project).
- Construction of primary rejection heavy media separation circuit (Primary Rejection) enabling rejection of low-grade waste material and providing an additional 100,000tpa of spodumene concentrate production capacity at an estimated capital cost of $103.0M.
- Construction of integrated crushing and ore sorting facility (Crushing and Ore Sorting) capable of processing up to 5mtpa of ore throughput and supporting further process improvements and concentrate quality, at an estimated capital cost of $194.5M.
- The P680 Project includes both Primary Rejection and Crushing and Ore Sorting to deliver total nameplate production capacity at the Pilgangoora Operation of between 640,000 to 680,000tpa at a total estimated capital investment of $297.5M, including $50M of pre-investment capital towards future expansions up to 1Mtpa of spodumene concentrate production (P1000 Project).
- Commissioning of Primary Rejection expected to commence from September Quarter 2023, with the additional production capacity to follow three months later.
- Downstream joint venture with POSCO, together with continued strong market demand, support the P680 Project.
- Supports decarbonisation strategy by rejecting more waste at the front end of the processing circuit, reducing overall energy intensity and carbon per spodumene concentrate tonne.”
On July 13, Pilbara Minerals announced:
Results of BMX auction. Delivering an implied price of us$6,841/dmt (SC6.0, CIF China). A cargo of 5,000dmt at a target grade of ~5.5% lithia was presented for sale on the digital platform, with delivery expected from late August 2022. Strong interest continues to be received in both participation and bidding by a broad range of qualified buyers with a total of 41 bids received online during the 30-minute auction window. Pilbara Minerals intends to accept the highest bid of US$6,188/dmt (SC5.5, FOB Port Hedland basis) which on a pro rata basis for lithia content (inclusive of freight costs) equates to a price of ~US$6,841/dmt (SC6.0, CIF China basis).
Late 2023 – Plan to commission production of POSCO/Pilbara Minerals (18%, option to increase to 30%) JV LiOH facility in Korea.
Mineral Resources [ASX:MIN] (OTCPK:MALRF)
Mt Marion Mine (50% MIN: 50% Ganfeng). Wodgina Lithium Mine (60% ALB: 40% MIN) restarted in mid 2022. (Note the non-binding agreement will (if completes) move Wodgina to a 50% ALB: 50% MIN JV). The 50ktpa Kemerton Lithium Hydroxide refinery (60% ALB: 40% MIN) is due for first sales in H2, 2022.
On July 4 Mineral Resources announced: “Update on lithium partnership with Mineral Resources Limited at the West Spargoville Project.” Highlights include:
- “MQR and MinRes have entered into a legally binding term sheet for a Farm-in and Joint Venture agreement at the West Spargoville Project in Western Australia.
- The Agreement is conditional on MinRes completing due diligence on the Project within 5 weeks.
- MinRes has the right to acquire an initial 25% legal and beneficial interest in the lithium rights (Initial Farm-in Interest) by funding all exploration and development activities and completing a feasibility study for the Project, including a JORC compliant resource (Initial Farm-in Obligation) within 24 months (Initial Farm-in Period).
- In performing the Initial Farm-in Obligation, MinRes will fund: at least $1,000,000 of exploration and development activities on the Tenements by 31 December 2022; and the $500,000 cost to exercise the Fyfehill Option.
- Marquee will be responsible for managing the implementation of the exploration and development activities on the Tenements during the Initial Farm-in Period.”
Investors can read the latest Trend Investing article on Mineral Resources here.
AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group NV [NA:AMG] [GR:ADG] (OTCPK:AMVMF)
On July 5, AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group NV announced:
Shell & AMG Recycling B.V. and the United Company for Industry announce an agreement with Aramco to construct and operate a World-Class Metals Supercenter Complex in Saudi Arabia… for the recovery and recycling of metals…
You can view the latest company presentation here.
2022 – Progress on lithium projects in Zeitz, Germany and in Zanesville, Ohio, both in the planning stage.
Q2 2023 – Stage 2 production at Mibra Lithium-Tantalum mine (additional 40ktpa) forecast to begin, bringing its production capacity to 130ktpa.
Q3 2023 – Lithium hydroxide facility in Bitterfeld-Wolfen Germany with production set to begin.
Lithium Americas [TSX:LAC] (LAC)
On July 19, Lithium Americas announced: “Lithium Americas publishes 2021 ESG-S report.”
On July 20, Lithium Americas announced: “Lithium Americas celebrates inauguration of Lithium Technical Development Center in Nevada and provides Thacker Pass update.” Highlights include:
- “Official opening of Lithium Technical Development Center. Inauguration of the Company’s 30,000 ft2 lithium process testing facility in Reno, Nevada.
- Facility commissioned and operating as planned. Production commenced in June 2022 to replicate Thacker Pass’ flowsheet from raw ore to final product in an integrated process.
- Lithium carbonate samples achieve battery-quality. Facility achieving battery-quality specifications with product samples being produced for potential customers and partners.
- Early-works construction on track to commence in 2022. Federal appeal moving forward with briefings scheduled to be complete August 11, 2022, and oral arguments and a final decision expected shortly thereafter. The Company has all permits to commence construction. During construction, Thacker Pass is expected to employ over 1,000 workers.
- Process underway to appoint engineering construction contractor. The Company has issued a request for proposal (“RFP”) from short-listed engineering, procurement and construction management firms (“EPCM”) to perform detailed engineering, execution planning and manage Thacker Pass’ construction.
- Cultural assessment work was successfully completed in mid-July. Members of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe (“Tribe”) were hired as cultural monitors to perform archeological mitigation work in collaboration with Far Western Anthropological Research Group.
- Completing carbon intensity and water utilization analysis…
- Continuing to advance Thacker Pass financing discussions. Formal application submitted to U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) in April 2022 through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (“ATVM”) loan program which is expected to fund the majority of Thacker Pass’ capital costs.”
- H2 2022 – Thacker Pass FS and early construction works planned to commence.
- H2 2022 – Cauchari-Olaroz lithium production to commence and ramp to 40ktpa. From 2025 a Stage 2 20ktpa+ expansion is planned.
- 2023 – Possible lithium clay producer from Thacker Pass Nevada (full ramp by 2026).
NB: Ganfeng Lithium (51%) and Lithium Americas (49%) own the JV company Minera Exar S.A., which owns 91.5% interest and is entitled to 100% of the production from the Cauchari-Olaroz Project. The 8.5% interest is owned by Jujuy Energia y Mineria Sociedad del Estado (“JEMSE”) (a company owned by the Government of Jujuy province).
Argosy Minerals [ASX:AGY][GR:AM1] (OTCPK:ARYMF)
Argosy has an interest in the Rincon Lithium Project in Argentina, targeting a fast-track development strategy. Argosy is now producing at a small scale and ramping to 2,000tpa lithium carbonate starting June 2022.
No news for the month.
Investors can view the company’s latest investor presentation here, and the latest Trend Investing Argosy Minerals article here.
Core Lithium Ltd. [ASX:CXO] [GR:7CX] (OTC:CORX)(OTCPK:CXOXF)
Core 100% own the Finniss Lithium Project (Grants Resource) in Northern Territory Australia. Significantly they already have an off-take partner with China’s Yahua (large market cap, large lithium producer), who has signed a supply deal with Tesla (TSLA). The Company states they have a “high potential for additional resources from 500km2 covering 100s of pegmatites.” Fully funded and starting mining with a planned Q4 2022 production start.
On July 12, Core Lithium Ltd. announced: “Significant increase to Finniss Lithium Project Mineral Resource and Ore Reserves.” Highlights include:
- “Mineral Resource Estimate increased by 28% to 18.9Mt @ 1.32% Li2O.
- Measured and Indicated Mineral Resource increased by 61% to 13.3Mt @ 1.40% Li2O.
- Finniss Lithium Project Ore Reserve increased by 43% to 10.6Mt @ 1.3% Li2O.
- Finniss Life of Mine (LOM) extended to 12 years.
- Core’s current 2022 drilling campaign expected to result in further significant increases in Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves at Finniss.
- Finniss Project continues to grow as it moves into first lithium production.”
Investors can read a company presentation here, or the Trend Investing article when Core Lithium was back at A$0.055 here.
- Late 2022 – Lithium spodumene production at Finniss targeted to begin.
Sigma Lithium Resources [TSXV:SGML](SGMLF) (SGML)
Sigma is developing a world class lithium hard rock deposit with exceptional mineralogy at its Grota do Cirilo Project in Brazil.
On July 12, Sigma Lithium Resources announced: “Sigma Lithium advances construction to 25% and announces positive regulatory updates.”
- Late 2022 – Production targeted to begin at the Grota do Cirilo Project in Brazil and ramp to 230,000tpa spodumene.
Investors can read the latest company presentation here or the Trend Investing article here back when Sigma was trading at C$5.00.
Lithium miner ETFs
- Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (NYSEARCA:LIT) – Price = US$72.33.
The LIT fund was slightly lower in July. The current PE is 22.20.
Our model forecast is for lithium demand to increase 5 fold between end 2020 and end 2025 to ~1.72m tpa, and 10.3x this decade to reach ~3.6m tpa by end 2029 (assumes electric car market share of 32% by end 2025 and 70% by end 2029).
Note: A Nov. 2020 UBS forecast is for “lithium demand to lift 11-fold from ~400kt in 2021 through to 2030.”
Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT) 10 year price chart
- The Amplify Lithium & Battery Technology ETF (BATT) is currently on a PE of 19.94. It is a well diversified fund. On their website they state: “BATT is a portfolio of companies generating significant revenue from the development, production and use of lithium battery technology, including: 1) battery storage solutions, 2) battery metals & materials, and 3) electric vehicles. BATT seeks investment results that correspond generally to the EQM Lithium & Battery Technology Index (BATTIDX).
July saw lithium chemicals prices flat and spodumene prices slightly higher. Industry specialists are forecasting lithium prices to stay strong as the market likely to remain in a structural deficit for some time. Morningstar forecasts lithium selling at $70,000/t ton in 2023 and averaging in the mid-$30,000 range over the decade.
Highlights for the month were:
- BMI: The energy storage revolution has arrived. Lithium-ion battery cell capacity to grow at a CAGR of 47% to 2032.
- Gotion High Tech signs lithium plant deal in Argentina with JEMSE.
- G7 launches $600 billion global infrastructure investment plan including battery spend.
- CATL’s new battery ‘Qilin 3.0’ is a leap forward but also a precursor of something radical to come. Qilin capable of a range of 1,000 km (620 mile).
- FREYR Battery sanctions construction of its inaugural Gigafactory.
- Morningstar: Lithium stocks a bright spot in basic materials.
- SQM says the market will need new supplies of 200-300,000 tpa of lithium pa, equal to roughly 8 to 10 new projects coming on stream every year.
- Volkswagen began construction of its first global battery plant at Salzgitter, Germany; launched a new battery business that will expand across Europe and into North America, as part of a plan to produce its own batteries.
- Panasonic picks Kansas for new $4B electric vehicle battery factory. Tesla lays down 2 TWh battery challenge to Panasonic.
- Trudeau announces deal with Umicore to build $1.5B cathode materials plant in Ontario, will be the first industrial-scale manufacturing plant of its kind in North America.
- US says it will back miners to stop China’s weaponization of battery metals.
- Ernst, Manchin Seek to End U.S. dependence on China for defense materials.
- Fastmarkets’ William Adams: Lithium prices have yet to peak, but expect surprises.
- Rio Tinto on the hunt for more lithium assets.
- Musk says lithium refining a ‘license to print money,’ stock investors jump in.
- Batteries are already helping power grids weather a hotter world.
- Albemarle Corp plans to build a 100,000 tpa lithium processing plant in the United States.
- SQM: Lithium king crowned in dictatorship sees $3.5bn fortune at risk.
- Ganfeng Lithium: Annual production of 10GWh battery project put into operation. Ganfeng to buy Lithea Inc (has Li assets in Argentina) for $962 million.
- Tianqi Lithium raises $1.7 billion in year’s biggest Hong Kong listing.
- Allkem: Olaroz Stage 2 reached 88% completion with first production expected in late H2 CY22.
- Pilbara Minerals Board approval for P680 Project to deliver a further 100,000tpa of production capacity from pilgan plant. BMX auction delivers an implied price of us$6,841/dmt (SC6.0, CIF China) spodumene.
- Core Lithium Finniss Lithium Project Mineral Resource Estimate increased by 28% to 18.9Mt @ 1.32% Li2O.
- Sigma Lithium advances construction to 25% and announces positive regulatory updates.
As usual all comments are welcome.