Against a backdrop of economic/geopolitical turmoil and falling global stock markets, lithium has stood tall over the past year.

Not just prices, which continue to scale epic heights, but lithium stocks themselves.

Most of the top 10 ASX battery metals stocks over the past 12 months are into lithium, at all stages of the exploration, development and production cycle.

But rare earths stocks are also enjoying a win, driven by many of the same tailwinds that lithium enjoys – a parabolic demand outlook and the West’s nascent shift away from Chinese production.

Let’s jump right into our top ASX battery metals stocks over the past 12 months.



Looking For: rare earths

Market Cap: $190m

The former bauxite explorer rerated heavily after reaching an out-of-court settlement over a protracted 2018 dispute for Kangankunde, one of the world’s largest REE projects outside China.

A big 12,500m drilling program at the Malawi-based project is ready to kick off next month.

“Kangankunde is the world’s best undeveloped rare earths project, and this program is instrumental in the assessment of the extent and potential of rare earth mineralisation with respect to its grade and tonnage,” CEO Alistair Stephens said earlier this month.

“Recent conversion of options into fully paid ordinary shares, coupled with our existing cash balance, means we are sufficiently funded to commence this drill program.

“As previously flagged, interest in Kangankunde from financiers, end-users and other industry participants is considerable and we are assessing longer-term funding opportunities with them.

“I consider that we are on the cusp of defining the world’s most significant rare earth deposit.”

READ: We need 10 new REE mines by 2030 to meet magnet rare earths demand



Looking For: lithium

Market Cap: $414m

The advanced WA lithium explorer is now up 1,280% since May 2021, when it listed with a market cap of $30m.

The company has total resources of 20.4Mt lithium across two 100% owned projects in WA — Marble Bar in the Pilbara, and Manna in the Goldfields.

That puts it in rare air. There are only 14 JORC lithium resources in Australia right now.

GL1 says there is scope for significant growth at 9.9Mt Manna, where the resource was defined by just 3,636m drilling at relatively shallow depths “with mineralisation open in all directions”.

A drilling program of at least 20,000m is underway at Manna to further grow the resource and to upgrade the classification.

A massive 380-hole, 60,000m RC drilling program also kicked off at Marble Bar in February, targeting the area south of the Archer resource.

GL1 has notably inked a 10-year offtake deal with Suzhou — also a 9.9% shareholder — and major Korean battery maker SK, and attracted Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) which holds a 9.9% stake.

READ: This monster deal shows just how wild the lithium ride has been in 2022



Looking For: nickel

Market Cap: $230m

Mark Creasy backed GAL caught a rocket in May after announcing a major nickel-PGE discovery at the ‘Norseman’ project in WA.

(The discovery also includes rhodium, one of the rarest and most valuable precious metals in the world, which currently sells for $US15,500/oz.)

In October, GAL said drilling had hit nickel mineralisation up to 51m thick 400m away from the original discovery hole.

“Our target generation model suggested that the five kilometres north of Callisto are the most prospective and these early drill results strongly support this concept,” the company says.

“With no known outcrop, and over five kilometres of prospective strike, we consider that a significant opportunity exists for additional discoveries at shallow depths.”


4. CYGNUS GOLD (ASX:CY5) + 293%

Looking For: lithium

Market Cap: $71m

This small lithium (not gold) explorer netted a big fish in October, naming David Southam as incoming managing director.

Southam was the driving force behind Mincor Resources (ASX:MCR), which went from $70 million explorer to $1 billion nickel miner during his tenure.

Prior to joining Mincor, Southam was executive director of ASX-200 nickel company Western Areas for eight years and held senior executive roles within Brambles Group, Gindalbie Metals, ANZ Investment Bank and WMC Resources.

He will initially join the CY5 board as a non-executive director from 1 November 2022, before moving into the MD role from mid-February 2023.

CY5 chairman Ray Shorrocks says Southam’s decision to join the company speaks volumes about the potential of the flagship Pontax project, where previous drilling already established the presence of high-grade spodumene.

Pontax is a recently acquired, 70% owned project in James Bay lithium district in Canada.

“I’m very excited to be joining the Cygnus team at such an early juncture of its lithium journey and look forward to leading the company through its next stages of growth,” Southam says.

“Excitingly, the company will commence its maiden drill programme in the coming weeks with a clear aim of delivering an inaugural Mineral Resource in 2023.”

READ: As EV sales accelerate, one of nickel’s leading men is swerving into lithium



Looking For: lithium

Market Cap: $350m

In August, ASN increased resources at the Paradox lithium brine project in southern Utah by 324% to 788,300t of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), paving the way for development.

Then, the share price hit all-time highs after a non-binding deal was inked with global direct lithium extraction (DLE) leader Sunresin to develop a full-scale commercial lithium plant at Paradox.

In September, the high-flying lithium project developer released its project definitive feasibility study (DFS).

The headline numbers for Phase 1 development are as follows:

  • Capital expenditure of US$495 million
  • Production of up to 13,074 tonnes per annum
  • Revenues of US$5,080m over 23 years of operations
  • Pre-tax NPV7 of US$1,306 million, pre-tax IRR of 47%
  • Post commissioning payback period of two years
  • First production in 2025

ASN assumed a long-term price assumption of ~US$19,000 per tonne of battery grade lithium carbonate for the DFS.

At current lithium carbonate spot prices of ~US$72,000 per tonne, pre-tax NPV and IRR jump to $5,149m and 98%, respectively.

That’s super profits territory.



Looking For: lithium, rare earths

Market Cap: $9m

Coming off a very low base was ODE, which surged after diversifying into lithium and rare earths exploration.

In April, ODE moved the acquire a 606sqkm project called Lyndon right next door to Dreadnought’s (ASX:DRE) recent rare earth discoveries at Mangaroon in WA.

“Also, recently acquired historical lithium data includes an assay of 314ppm lithium oxide,” new ODE boss David Lenigas says.

“This highly significant result comes from a drainage sample collected immediately downstream of a cluster of outcropping pegmatites, and this area will be our initial focus for exploration over the coming months.”

In October it announced the proposed acquisition of another REE project called Lockier Range, 95km from Lyndon.



Looking For: lithium

Market Cap: $150m

ESS’ Pioneer Dome lithium project in WA contains an actual resource (more than most ASX explorers can boast) of 11.2Mt at 1.21% lithium.

A resource update (MRE) is due next month. Meanwhile, ESS are prepping for development.

A scoping study on the project has begun.

After that, more detailed feasibility studies will kick off in 2023 ahead of first lithium production in 2025, all going well.

The updated MRE and scoping study will provide a platform for Essential to progress financing and offtake discussions, it says.

“We are now entering a very important period for the company as we determine the initial scale of the operation and progress selection of a partner/partners that are best suited to ensuring the Pioneer Dome Lithium Project is a long-term success for ESS shareholders,” managing director Tim Spencer says.

PODCAST: Essential Metals says lithium production could kick off in 2025 at Pioneer Dome



Looking For: rare earths, nickel, copper

Market Cap: $330m

The big breakout came in July, when maiden drilling confirmed the Yin prospect, part of the wider Mangaroon project in WA, as a “high grade rare earths discovery”.

Assays returned grades up to 16% TREO with an average NdPr (magnet rare earth) ratio of ~30% — nearly double the global average and similar to the $460m Hastings Technology Metals (ASX:HAS) Yangibana rare earths project, ~25km away.

Results like 34m @ 2.59% TREO from surface, including 10m @ 6.05% TREO from 11m, prompted other explorers to move to the area to replicate DRE’s early success.

Impressive drilling results continue to roll in ahead of a maiden JORC resource due out soon.

The NdPr:TREO ratio is actually increasing to the north, DRE says, with values up to ~46%.

That is over double the global average.

“Yin continues to deliver exceptional REE results,” DRE managing director Dean Tuck said late October.

“With 91 of 120 holes reported, we remain on schedule to deliver our initial JORC resource at Yin in the December 2022 quarter.

“Importantly this initial JORC Resource will only cover ~3km of the interpreted ~16km of strike of Yin.”



Looking For: lithium

Market Cap: $36m

This rejuvenated lithium junior is enjoying a fantastic run in 2022.

RAS started acquiring an early-stage Northern Territory lithium project back in May.

The so-called NT ‘Supergroup’ lithium project area is within the Litchfield Pegmatite Belt – host to Core Lithium’s (ASX:CXO) neighbouring Finnis Project, Lithium Plus (ASX:LPM), Charger Metals (ASX:CHR) and others.

A maiden ~4,000m drilling program kicked off earlier this month. This will chug along until the wet season prohibits further site access and operations, and then re-commence in the new year.

The drilling program is targeting lithium bearing pegmatites beneath cover, evident at the Core project located to the north, with a view to defining a maiden mineral resource in 2023.



Looking For: lithium

Market Cap: $16 billion

A monster effort from the Pilbara hard rock lithium giant and sector litmus test, which came in at #10 on our list.

With lithium prices like these it’s no surprise PLS is going from strength to strength at the moment.

The September quarter has again blown previous records out of the water, with an average sales price of US$4266/dmt on a 5.3% Li2O product grade, equivalent to US$4813/dmt on a 6% basis, up from US$4267/dmt (SC6) in the June quarter.

Production of 147,105 dry metric tonnes was up 16% on the June quarter, delivering an annualised production rate of 588,000t in line with the ramp up to full capacity of the 180,000-200,000tpa Ngungaju plant, with shipments of 138,249t of spodumene concentrate above 132,424dmt in the prior three months.

But those numbers aren’t the ones you’re after.

Check out this one. PLS more than doubled its cash balance from $591.7m to $1.375 billion in just three months to September, a radical $783.7m increase in a touch over 90 days.

READ: PLS banked an extra $8.5m this quart- Oh wait… PLS banked an extra $8.5m every day this quarter