Lithium producer Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS) says battery metals sentiment has finally turned positive, as COVID-19 economic stimulus incentivises electric vehicle makers, and Tesla becomes the world’s most valuable auto-maker.

“[The] market signalling indicates lithium pricing may be approaching the bottom, with several investment banks and industry analysts forecasting a demand surge and price turnaround in 2021,” said Pilbara Minerals in its June quarter update.

The lithium price is trading steady this week at $US7.25/kg ($10.07/kg) 99.5 per cent basis CIF China, Japan and Korea, according to the London Metal Exchange.

Meanwhile, after nearly five months of sideways drift, cobalt prices have spiked on supply concerns in Africa.

The London Metal Exchange’s cash contract for cobalt spiked to $US33,000/tonne ($45,895/tonne) this week having traded in a rangebound fashion at $US28,050 to $29,050/tonne since March.

Chinese cobalt refiners are encountering a shortage of the metal used in electric vehicles and smart phones as COVID-19 restrictions have delayed shipments from Africa, Reuters said.

                                                       ASX stock prices for battery metals companies

Lithium miners gain

The share prices of several Australian battery metals companies were trading higher Thursday.

They include Galaxy Resources (ASX: GXY) up 2.5 per cent to $1.19 in early trade, and Pilbara Minerals gained 4 per cent to 1.5c.

Explorer and developer Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) was 5 per cent higher at 6.3c after  indications its patent application for the recovery of lithium phosphate from lithium-bearing solutions contained “new and inventive” claims.

Production of lithium phosphate (LP) reduces the number of steps needed to produce battery cathode powders for lithium-ion batteries used in EVs, like Tesla’s Model 3.

“Lithium Australia’s LP extraction and refining process not only gives its proprietary processes for the recovery of lithium from spodumene and mica a further competitive advantage, but also appears to be the most efficient means of recovering lithium from spent batteries,” managing director Adrian Griffin said.

African lithium developer Prospect Resources (ASX: PSC) rose 7.7 per cent to 14c after testing showed petalite and spodumene from its Arcadia project in Zimbabwe were also suitable for premium-priced glass and ceramics markets.

“The opportunity for Prospect to produce a technical grade, ultra-iron blended product of Arcadia spodumene and petalite, has the potential to deliver a fit for purpose product for glass and ceramics customers and achieve higher sales prices across Arcadia’s lithium products,” managing director Sam Hosack said.

Off-take buyers for Lake

Lake Resources (ASX: LKE) announced it had appointed Colorado-based independent assay laboratory Hazen Research to produce larger samples of quality lithium carbonate for supply to potential off-take buyers.

Battery anode and graphene company Talga Resources (ASX: TLG) said feasibility work at its Vittangi Anode project in Sweden supported a fast-track pathway for the plant to commercial anode production of 19,000 tonnes per annum from 2023.

“With increasing demand for Li-ion battery anode sourced from secure and clean supply chains Talga is attracting attention as a potential major anode producer outside China,” managing director, Mark Thompson, said.

Talga shares were 3.8 per cent higher at 54.5c.