Eye on Lithium: Prices continue down-spiral, Ford eats losses to power EV ambitions
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All your lithium news, Friday March 24.
Chinese lithium chemical pricing has extended losses due to weak demand for electric vehicles compounded by discounts on internal combustion vehicles, sending the Benchmark Lithium Price Index down by 7.9% in the assessment period from March 8 to March 22.
Lithium carbonate prices saw the biggest loss, falling 9.6% to US$53,091/t while the lithium hydroxide premium increased with its pricing falling 5.2% to US$61,805/t.
The latter is due to more stable spodumene prices, squeezing lithium hydroxide converter margins.
Meanwhile, 6% spodumene concentrate prices were down 5.6% to US$5,050/t though Benchmark Mineral Intelligence noted that demand remained relatively robust with buyers still requesting to purchase additional material on top of their allocated offtake deliveries.
Prices outside of China have begun to fall in a delayed response to Chinese movements, though a significant premium persists.
Benchmark also noted that lithium hydroxide availability outside of China remained restricted.
Meanwhile, automotive giant Ford’s EV business is expected to lose US$3bn this year as the company invests heavily in new models and factories.
While the company is the (distant) second seller of EVs in the US after Tesla, the company has its sights set firmly on challenging Elon Musk by investing US$50bn to develop and build EVs through 2026 with a goal of producing 2 million vehicles per annum by that time.
It also seeks to deliver a positive earnings before interest and taxes on EVs by 2026, which chief financial officer John Lawler told reporters in a briefing would come from increased sales volume, more efficient designs, lower battery costs and more competitive distribution and pricing.
It was a generally positive day for lithium stocks today with 52 companies finishing in positive territory while another 48 companies ended the day flat. This leaves the remaining 37 companies in the red.
A review of metallurgical testwork carried out by Jindalee Resources’ has identified acid leaching with beneficiation as the most economic pathway for McDermitt lithium project.
Global engineering, construction, procurement and maintenance company Fluor Corporation noted in its review that acid leach testwork to date has been successful with highlights including lithium recoveries of over 95% with sulphuric acid leach at moderate temperatures and atmospheric pressure on whole of ore samples.
Additionally, beneficiation of McDermitt ore also increased the lithium content in the <0.01mm faction by more than 50% while reducing carbonate and analime.
Taken together, it concluded that while there were no significant differences in capital costs for the three processing routes that were compared, acid leach with beneficiation was found to deliver the lowest operating costs and best financial outcome.
As such, Jindalee intends to immediately start metallurgical testwork recommended by Fluor to refine the preferred flowsheet.
Drilling at Lord Resources’ Horse Rocks lithium project is now 50% complete with pegmatites intersected in all 32 holes drilled to date.
Not only did drilling intercept multiple wide zones of pegmatites up to 27m thick, it also returned numerous shallow and potentially lithium-bearing pegmatites intersected from surface with interval thicknesses of more than 20m.
The drill program, which was intended to test five high-priority geochemical anomalies, has thus far focused on the main central permit anomaly.
Drilling will now move to the southern anomalies.
Closely watched lithium explorer Patriot Battery Metals is likely to draw even more attention after drilling extended the strike length of the CV5 Pegmatite at its red hot Corvette property in Quebec, Canada, by a further 550m to 3.15km.
And there is still room to grow with the company noting that CV5 remains open along strike at both ends and to depth.
Drilling is now stepping out westwards from CV5 towards the CV13 pegmatite with the six core drilling rigs currently active.
Patriot has completed 52 drill holes to date this year with another seven actively coring while samples for 37 holes have arrived at SGS’ analytical lab for assaying.
West Cobar Metals has staked two areas prospective for large-scale sedimentary-hosted lithium claystone deposits within Nevada’s lithium district, which hosts American Lithium’s TLC deposit, American Battery Technology Company’s Tonopah Flats deposit and fellow Australia Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge deposit.
These new Montezuma Well and Big Smoky Valley areas have similar geology to these major deposits and are located in relatively flat arid country allowing all-year-round access for exploration.
Mining claims have been filed with Bureau of Land Management and local Nye and Esmeralda Counties.
Once granted, the company plans to carry out ground exploration and reverse circulation drilling to test the prospect areas for claystone-hosted mineralisation.
Woomera has completed the first phase of exploration at its Mt Cattlin lithium project in Western Australia with 1,077 auger holes drilled with assays expected in the June quarter.
The samples were taken on a 200m by 50m pattern over farmland.
Further work will be planned once results from the auger program have been assessed.