Battery Metals: Lithium producers look to get up off the canvas
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The performance of the bigger miners give us insight into the strength of the wider market – and listed small caps can thrive or die on market sentiment.
Good news or bad news; almost everything trickles downhill.
From falling prices and delayed shipments, the news coming from Australia’s hard rock lithium producers hasn’t been encouraging.
But yesterday, two pretty positive things happened which shows that the short-term outlook may not be that bad.
First, Altura Mining (ASX:AJM) inked a new five-year, 35,000t per annum deal to supply Chinese lithium materials producer Shandong Ruifu.
Then Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) announced that, based on conversations with its offtake partners, production and sales would return to full capacity for the December 2019 quarter.
And a new six-year, 20,000t per annum offtake was signed with China’s Great Wall Motor company, with the first shipment expected in August 2019.
“Great Wall has been pushing hard to expand its presence in the lithium-ion supply chain,” Pilbara Minerals says.
“This has culminated in it requesting that Pilbara Minerals make offtake available earlier and at greater volume than anticipated by prior agreements.
“Pilbara Minerals has and will continue to make sales to additional customers in China, where the company looks to expand its relationships throughout the lithium-ion supply chain.”
Lithium innovator Lepidico (ASX:LPD) says 24 hour operation of its $3m pilot plant is underway. It’s an important step towards commercialisation for Lepidico. The pilot plant is also designed to show off its tech to potential sales and finance partners ahead of development of its larger phase 1 processing plant. Lepidico intends to produce and stockpile ~4000 litres of lithium sulphate liquor for LOH-Max (lithium hydroxide) development trials in the September 2019 quarter. The remaining lithium sulphate liquor generated will be fed into the final process stage of the L-Max pilot plant for lithium carbonate production. The stock was up 8 per cent in morning trade.
Mali Lithium (ASX:MLL) — formerly Birimian — is close to getting the all-important exploitation permit for its large, long life Goulamina project in Mali. The application, submitted in early April 2019, has passed technical review and is now in front of the Minister of Mines for assessment and sign off. “We look forward to its imminent approval and moving on to the next stages of the Goulamina lithium project,” says Mali Lithium boss Chris Evans. The explorer received a 12.5 per cent boost in morning trade.
US-based lithium explorer Hawkstone Mining (ASX:HWK) is up 5 per cent after announcing more high-grade hits from ongoing phase 2 drilling at the flagship Big Sandy project in Arizona. Results from the 30 holes so far have extended primary lithium mineralisation up to 800m north; and mineralisation remains open to the north, south and west, Hawkstone says. The company is now building toward a maiden resource estimate for the project.