• Biden backs Buffett’s efforts to extract lithium in the Salton Sea
  • Pilbara Minerals boss man steps down after announcing first ever half-year profit.
  • Critical Resources stakes 4,500 Ha in Canada’s Electric Avenue

 

All your ASX lithium news for Wednesday, February 23.

 

US President Joe Biden has announced his administration is investing millions into the lithium and rare earths supply chains in an effort to reduce its reliance on China for the battery metals – with demand set to grow by 400-600% over the next several decades.

Biden flagged efforts to extract lithium from California’s Salton Sea, where Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) is among several companies working on extracting lithium from geothermal brine.

BHE Renewables president Alicia Knapp said the company is working on two demonstration plants to recover lithium in a commercially viable manner, with the first expected to come online in April.

The plants are supported by a $6 million grant from the California Energy Commission and $14.9m grant from the Department of Energy.

“If both of these demonstration projects are successful, we would then be in a position to begin construction of our first commercial plant in 2024 and, by 2026, be commercially extracting lithium from our geothermal brine,” she said.

Biden is also investing $35 million in America’s only rare earths miner MP Materials to ‘help create a fully domestic supply chain for the magnets that power electric vehicle motors, wind turbines, and so much more.”

 

Here’s how ASX lithium stocks are tracking today:

 

Who’s got news out today?

 

Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) 

Boss man Ken Brinsden will step away from his position at managing director of the resurgent lithium miner – after announcing its first ever half-year profit.

The unprecedented boom in prices of lithium materials for the electric vehicle supply chain has powered PLS to a $114m statutory profit for the first half of 2022, from a statutory loss of $21.2m a year earlier.

PLS’ Pilgangoora lithium operation has been a major beneficiary of shifting tides brought by raging EV demand — and consequently skyrocketing raw materials prices amid extreme market tightness.

It shipped 170,228dmt of spodumene concentrate at an average price of US$1250/dmt ($1700/dmt) against unit operating costs CFR China of US$486/dmt ($666/dmt).

And it’s about to get better. Spot spodumene prices are in the range of US$3750-4500/dmt, PLS says, and its prices of all the major lithium producers are closest linked to the prevailing spot market.

Brinsden called the maiden half year profit a significant milestone for the company, which rode out the downturn that sent its competitors Altura Mining and Alita Resources under in 2019 and 2020.

“Our financial performance for the period is a direct reflection of the incredible turnaround which has been experienced in the lithium raw materials supply chain over the past year or so,” he said.

“The combination of strong underlying demand growth and Pilbara Mineral’s ability to create a transparent spot price outcome via the Battery Material Exchange has driven very strong increases in prices for our product.

“The current momentum in lithium markets continues to demonstrate higher price outcomes and we are very well placed to participate in this as production and sales volumes from the combined Pilgangoora Operation continue to increase.”

 

 

Critical Resources (ASX:CRR)

The company has staked 4,500 Ha of highly prospective lithium claims – the Plaid and Whiteloon Lake projects – in the “Electric Avenue” region of northwest Ontario, Canada.

The projects are within 5.5km of Frontier Lithium’s (TSX:FL) Pak, Spark and Bolt deposits, with Pak being one of North America’s highest-grade, high tonnage hard rock lithium resources.

Not to mention that Tesla recently announced its opening a battery gear manufacturing plant in Ontario, which the company says means the region could become one of the world;s leading lithium provinces.

And MD Alex Biggs said it’s an excellent time to gain a foothold in the emerging lithium province.

“Securing these claims is part of the company’s aggressive approach to lithium exploration in Ontario,” MD Alex Biggs said.

“The Electric Avenue region is a highly prospective area hosting large and high grade hard rock lithium projects, so to be able to acquire land in this area is a very exciting development for the company.”

Mapping conducted in 1993 displays evidence of pegmatite outcrops within the recently acquired claims, and the company plans to kick off work programs to identify drill targets immediately.