Eye on Lithium: Big miners using M&A to avoid project delays, cost overruns as demand continues to build
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All your lithium news, Monday May 15.
After last week’s big news, we’re finding more out about what the Allkem-Livent super merger is actually all about.
Allkem – the lovechild borne out of a merger between Orocobre and Galaxy Resources in 2021 – seems to have chosen its new partner, US group Livent, purposefully to help navigate current and future challenges the lithium industry faces.
While demand for lithium in and outside of China continues to build, project delays and cost overruns are festering to the surface, buoyed by high construction costs and incessant labour shortages.
The Allkem-Livent merger looks to be designed to address these issues, each with two projects in Argentina and Canada in close proximity to one another.
This means the projects will be able to share corporate facilities, infrastructure, and integrate a more direct supply chain in and out of the regions – at least in those locations.
There’s a glimmer of good news on the labour front for lithium – at least in brine-rich Argentina – where the country’s mining secretariat released annual jobs data that showed employment in its lithium industry had grown 68% year-on-year, with 1482 new positions created and filled between Jan 22 and Jan 23.
Meanwhile back in Australia, a relatively quiet day of industry-related announcements that affect the market saw little major movement across the board.
Takeover target Essential Metals (ASX:ESS) was one of those that barely moved, adding a paltry 1c to its start of the day share price.
That lack of movement might change soon however, as ESS boss Tim Spencer resumed offtake talks with potential partners last week after six months hiatus from M&A deals forced by a previous takeover attempt by IGO and Tianqi.
Buyers from China, Japan and South Korea are circling, so it shouldn’t take too long before we hear something worth talking about.
A competitive offer for the company from Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) hasn’t surfaced either since MIN bought a 20% chunk of the explorer in April.
55 lithium companies had landed themselves in the red, 59 were unchanged or nearly unchanged, and just 35 found themselves in positive.
Westar Resources (ASX:WSR) hit “multiple thick pegmatites” up to 44m thick in maiden drilling at Olga Rocks lithium-gold project, near Southern Cross in WA.
Drilling 14 holes worth a total of 1460 metres, Westar found multiple pegmatite zones – notably a 44m-wide intercept at 17m.
Westar boss Lindsay Franker said the announcement of its proof-of-concept maiden drill program and its consequent success, the company is now moving into planning the next phase of drilling – targeting along strike and down dip extensions.
“Whilst awaiting laboratory assays, Westar geologists will continue to advance exploration targeting for buried pegmatites across the Olga Rocks tenure,” Mr Franker said.
Reach Resources (ASX:RR1) is further improving the status of its Morrisey Hill’s project after rock chip sampling showed 2.3% Li2O, confirming the presence of multiple large lithium pegmatites.
The pegmatites, inside the Bonzer prospect area of the project, also returned up to 4,295 parts per million (ppm) caesium and 705.8ppm tantalum – a nice value add.
The company confirmed lithium mineralisation through the new rock chip samples, returning “highly encouraging” assays of up to 2.3 per cent lithium oxide, 4295 parts per million (ppm) caesium and 705.8 ppm tantalum oxide.
“These are seriously good results, considering we have only had time to target a small percentage of the total outcropping pegmatites on site,” CEO Jeremy Bower said.
“We are particularly excited about the Bonzer prospect, which is a clear walk-up drill target.”
Reach has plans to commence drilling at Bonzer and other priority target areas in Q3 this year after navigating the regulatory approval process.
Patriot Lithium (ASX:PAT) has commenced Phase I reconnaissance at its 7-strong portfolio of lithium projects in Ontario, Canada.
The explorer is also simultaneously running exploration programs at its US projects.
“The seven projects to be explored all have geological characteristics that our exploration team is eager to field check and test,” Patriot MD Nick Vickery explained.
“The Canadian team is ideally placed to run this field program while Patriot’s US-based geologists simultaneously run exploration programs on Patriot’s projects in the Pegmatite Belt of Arizona and the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.”
After completion of the three-week program in Canada, the company said it anticipated starting on mapping and sampling as part of Phase II, which will also take three weeks to complete.
At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Reach Resources and Patriot Lithium are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.