Eye on Lithium: The price is right for lithium miners to ramp up production
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All your ASX lithium news for Thursday, May 5
It looks like the lithium price is right for producers, with big names across the sector announcing plans to ramp up their operations.
Producer Livent’s (NYSE:LTHM) adjusted earnings before tax for the quarter $53.3 million; 94% higher than the previous quarter.
LTHM now wants to boost total lithium hydroxide capacity to 55,000 tonnes per year (tpa) (currently 25,000tpa) by the end of 2025 and its lithium carbonate capacity to 100,000tpa (currently 20,000tpa) by the end of 2030.
Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) has also announced plans to expand spodumene concentrate capacity at Mt Marion lithium project to 900,000 tpa of mixed grade product by end of 2022.
Allkem (ASX:AKE) announced plans to expand capacity at its Sal de Vida project in Argentina to 45,000tpa.
On the back of rising profits, Ganfeng will more than double its lithium chemical production capacity to a nameplate capacity of 300,000 tpa LCE by 2025.
Then there’s Chinese automaker, Jiangxi Special Electric Motor, who plans to build a 3 million tpa capacity lepidolite ore processing and 20,000 tpa capacity lithium chemicals project.
S&P Global Commodity Insights Principle Analyst, Metals & Mining Research, Kevin Murphy said that with global energy transition efforts expected to continue ramping up for the foreseeable future, lithium demand is expected to increase significantly.
“In 2021, lithium supply is estimated to have been 506,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent, or LCE, with demand of 511,000 tonnes of LCE,” he said.
“This is expected to increase to 1.2 million tonnes of LCE supply in 2026 with demand forecast to be 1.25 million tonnes of LCE.”
Over the near-term, supply-side growth will exceed demand for lithium, which will lead to a pullback in lithium carbonate spot prices during 2022 and into 2023 “although prices will remain well above the lows hit in 2020,” Murphy says.
“By 2024 the lithium market is expected to return to increasing deficits which will provide buoyancy to prices.”
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A total of 79 stocks were in the green today, with 21 flatlining and 18 in the red.
Mapping, sampling, and reconnaissance exploration at its Yarrie project in WA revealed several high priority targets,
The company considers the project highly prospective for hard rock lithium-tin-tantalum mineralisation in pegmatites, considering nearby projects like Mineral Resources’ Wodgina project, Pilbara Minerals’ (ASX:PLS) Pilgangoora project and Global Lithium Resources’ (ASX:GL1) Marble Bar project.
“[It] represents a district-scale opportunity that has never seen targeted lithium exploration,” VP geology and exploration Johan Lambrechts said.
“We eagerly await the results of this campaign and following which the company plans on quickly mobilising its field crew again for further follow-up exploration programs as the company continues its aggressive approach to its lithium portfolio and aims to move its projects up the value curve by way of tangible results.”
Li-S Energy has joined the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) which will enable the company to leverage its co-funded R&D on advanced electrolytes for lithium metal and lithium sulphur batteries.
The FBICRC is the largest Australian partnership of industry, government and researchers focussed on battery technologies and CEO Shannon O’Rourke says global battery demand is expected to grow at least 9 to 10-fold over the next decade, “so we must accelerate our development of this technology.”
“Investments and collaboration from partners like Li-S Energy allow us to advance our research and capability in battery materials and precursor manufacturing, and in turn, broaden their own opportunities for market penetration,” he said.
LIS is aiming to deliver lithium sulphur and lithium metal batteries with unprecedented performance and cycle life, by using its unique BNNT and Li-nanomesh nano- composites.
“These batteries are the ‘holy grail’ of EV, drone and electric aviation markets, combining high energy storage and low weight,” LIS CEO Dr Lee Finniear says.
“Our collaboration with FBICRC accelerates our time to market by enabling us to access advanced electrolytes developed specifically for these high energy cells, further magnifying the benefits over lithium-ion.”
The explorer has confirmed extensive LCT pegmatites over at least 3km of strike at its Trigg Hill project in WA.
Some of these pegmatites were visually confirmed to contain lepidolite (lithium mica) and formanite, however the confirmation of the presence of spodumene, if present, will require further analysis.
Rock chip samples were collected with assay results pending.
Mapping and sampling is ongoing to identify the size of potential LCT pegmatite footprint, and a program of work has been lodged targeting drilling in July 2022.
The company says the discoveries in recent fieldwork and existing strategic partnerships with Yahua (a subsidiary of one of the largest Chinese lithium converters Yahua Group) on spodumene and Yongxing (one of the major Chinese lithium converters using lepidolite concentrates as feed to produce battery grade lithium carbonate) on lepidolite will greatly expedite the exploration process.