September has been a wild month for domestic Chinese lithium carbonate prices, which surged to another historical high as market participants returned from a two-day holiday yesterday.

S&P Global Platts assessed battery grade lithium carbonate at Yuan 182,000/mt (US$28,150) on Sept. 22, on a delivered, duty-paid China basis.

The price was up Yuan 12,000/mt ($US1,856/t) from the previous record high of Yuan 170,000/t assessed the day prior.

“The lack of supply to meet growing demand has led to price spikes, and some buyers have bought available September delivery cargoes to stockpile ahead of production,” Platts says.

“Market participants said that the settlement of term contracts could greatly impact the spot market for October with precursor makers having to secure spot supply for unmet demand.

“In addition, levels at which term contracts were being settled were seen as the pricing floor for spot trading.”

Some suppliers were asking for Yuan 180,000/mt for October-delivery battery grade lithium in their term negotiations, which — if accepted by buyers — will likely drive spot prices to Yuan 190,000/mt ($US29,300/t) or above, a precursor maker told Platts.

Raw material prices are also running hot, with Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) selling an 8,000t SC5.5 spodumene cargo for an extraordinary $US2,240/t via its Battery Material Exchange (BMX) digital auction platform on September 14.

The ‘icing on the cake’ for PLS is that this product – 5.5% lithium – is the low-grade stuff.

The equivalent headline price achieved for industry standard 6% product would be USD$2,500/t.

A stark contrast to the lows of ~$US380/t that Spodumene prices hit last year.


China ‘a ‘bellwether’ for global lithium market

The graphs below from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence show how lithium hydroxide and carbonate price rises had already accelerated to new levels in the first half of September:

Technical and battery grade lithium carbonate prices increased by over 20% in the first two weeks of September and are now up 188.9% and 215% respectively in the Chinese domestic market this year, the pricing agency says.

China EXW lithium hydroxide prices rose 14.2% in the first half of September, up 162.7% year-to-date.

“Throughout August and early September, the price rally for lithium chemicals and feedstock has been re-ignited on incredibly strong downstream demand, especially within the Chinese domestic market, which acts as a bellwether for the rest of the world’s lithium market,” Benchmark analyst George Miller says.

And with limited supply coming on in the near future, the deficit is set to widen dramatically .