Eye on Lithium: Battery-grade lithium carbonate so scarce that price ‘not the primary concern’ for consumers
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All your ASX lithium news for Monday, February 21.
Tight lithium supply isn’t expected to go away as battery production ramps up in China after the Lunar New Year.
Multiple market participants told Fastmarkets that a brine producer were releasing 2,000-3,000 tonnes of technical-grade lithium carbonate, which can be processed into battery-grade lithium carbonate, to the market.
A Chinese lithium producer said that battery-grade lithium carbonate units are so scarce in the spot market that price is not the primary concern for downstream consumers.
“They are looking everywhere for available units. But there are few sellers who still have any spot supply,” they said.
Battery-grade lithium hydroxide has seen improved demand amid a ramp-up in the production of nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) batteries this year, supporting its spot prices.
But overall demand for lithium hydroxide is still much weaker than that of lithium carbonate, since lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries are still outperforming NCM batteries in China.
Who’s got news out today?
Red Mountain Mining has picked up exploration ground just south-west of the Greenbushes lithium province in WA.
The 48sqkm Nannup project is prospective for lithium, nickel, gold and base metals.
The company is keen to kick off exploration, and says that the terrain has the potential to support a Julimar-style geological system. Historical exploration by BHP (ASX:BHP) around 9km south of the tenement also reported multiple lithium anomalies.
The gold-focused company and Haoma Mining have formed Pirra Lithium, with exploration already underway across the 1,063sqkm of lithium tenements from the companies’ portfolios.
Calidus MD Dave Reeves said the region has not been systematically evaluated for the presence of lithium and associated minerals previously.
“The current exploration program aims to confirm and map the extents of known pegmatites within the licences,” he said.
“Whilst this region has been historically identified for the presence of tin-tantalum and associated minerals, Pirra Lithium is the first company to focus on the potential lithium endowment which is exciting for Pirra Lithium.”
Another company on the acquisition train today, MinRex has nabbed the Garden Creek project, adjacent to Global Lithium’s (ASX:GLI) Archer Lithium Deposit (10.5Mt at 1.0% Li2O).
It’s a strategic ~890 km2 addition to the company’s portfolio which the Sisters and Moolyella North projects, also adjacent to Archer.
“Our team will be on the ground in the next 7-10 days our highly experienced geologists will be flying extensive reconnaissance surveys over the Marble Bar and Hillside projects,” non-exec director George Karageorge said.
RDT has plans to raise tidy $22m via a placement to accelerate exploration at its Mt Ida project, where it intends to increase the drilling capacity to include RC, Diamond and an aircore rig.
The company is working towards a JORC resource this calendar year and MD Matthew Boyes said the progress made to date is “incredible since its discovery less than 6 months ago.”
“We are excited about the resource growth potential in a new lithium province,” he said.
On settlement of the placement, RDT will have a cash balance of ~A$30 million.
The company has kicked off a detailed field exploration sampling campaign at its Barrow Creek project in the NT to follow up on recent survey targets.
“The tenement has received minimal lithium related exploration work in the past, despite the presence of numerous historic tin-tantalum occurrences and workings nearby,” VP exploration and geology Johan Lambrechts said.
“Recent work completed by the company identified fertile pegmatites with assay results of up to 817ppm lithium, which certainly warrant further exploration and follow-up.”
Detailed surface mapping and sampling are planned with Askari preparing for the potential inaugural RC drilling campaign at the project.
The company has flagged another high-grade lithium trend at its Ravensthorpe project in WA – which is parallel to the Eastern trend identified last week.
The Horseshoe pegmatite, part of the Western pegmatite trend, returned rock chip assays of up to 4.50% Li2O with an average assay of 3.1% Li2O.
“Following on from the recently reported exceptional spodumene and amblygonite lithium rock chip assays at Big pegmatite within the Eastern Pegmatite Trend, it is extremely pleasing to report high grade lithium assays within the Western Pegmatite Trend,” CEO Mark Csar said.
“We now have a great opportunity to progress two lithium plays only a few kms apart in this incredibly prospective area with an operating lithium processing plant only 12km away.”