Each month our High Voltage column wraps all the news driving ASX battery metals stocks with exposure to lithium, cobalt, graphite, manganese and vanadium.

Right now, COVID-19 is having a ‘freezing’ effect on the entire battery supply chain — from raw materials through to battery manufacturing and electric vehicle (EV) production.

In January, figures show Chinese EV output and sales falling about 55 per cent year-on-year. February figures could be even worse; early estimates suggest that numbers could plummet +90 per cent year-on-year.

The near-term outlook isn’t all bad. Despite the disruption, 59 out of 183 automotive suppliers in China — 32 per cent in the industry — had already reportedly resumed production by February 12, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reports.

Scroll down for our Top 5 of 2020 (so far) >>>

Still, even if COVID-19 impacts are minimised the issues that plagued battery raw materials prior to the outbreak remain.

Source: Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

In February, spodumene concentrate prices nudged lower to an average $US463 ($697) per tonne  — a 46 per cent drop from the same period last year — due to that ‘overhang’ in Chinese stockpiles.

WA hard rock producers like Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS), Altura Mining (ASX:AJM) and Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY) have been curbing exports in response but this excess feedstock — estimated at 25,000t LCE (lithium carbonate equivalent) — is still expected to persist through the first half of the year at least, Benchmark says.

The medium-to-long term outlook still remains strong, underlined by Altura’s ability to lock in a crucial $305m financing package on Friday.

Shareholders will be breathing a sigh of relief — the hard rock producer needed this deal to keep the lights on.

“We are pleased by the support shown by our existing lenders, their belief in the Altura lithium project, management and the global lithium sector,” managing director James Brown says.

“The combined sum of the financing package gives us considerable balance sheet strength and working capital headroom so we can continue to push through this period of market weakness.”

But investors are still rewarding the best development stories, even as pricing remains in the toilet.

This cluster of advanced ASX-listed lithium explorers — who aren’t exposed to prevailing low prices — are making appreciable gains in 2020.

Here’s a table of ASX battery metal stocks with exposure to lithium, cobalt, graphite, manganese and vanadium>>>

Scroll or swipe to reveal table. Click headings to sort. Best viewed on a laptop:

TICKER NAME 1 MONTH TOTAL RETURN YEAR TO DATE RETURN [2020] 1 YEAR TOTAL RETURN PRICE [intraday Friday] MARKET CAP [$AU]
GLN GALAN LITHIUM 16% 100% -58% 0.25 42,028,396
AVZ AVZ MINERALS 3% 56% 46% 0.068 154,722,848
LKE LAKE RESOURCES -19% 46% -34% 0.037 23,768,504
VUL VULCAN ENERGY RESOURCES 8% 35% 5% 0.21 8,940,000
LTR LIONTOWN RESOURCES 34% 32% 475% 0.11 194,808,304
AXE ARCHER MATERIALS -15% 26% 167% 0.19 41,421,816
MTC METALSTECH 4% 24% 108% 0.059 6,081,602
AVL AUSTRALIAN VANADIUM -8% 22% -45% 0.012 28,080,822
SVM SOVEREIGN METALS -14% 20% 43% 0.12 45,874,508
RIE RIEDEL RESOURCES -20% 20% 20% 0.012 5,016,837
PGM PLATINA RESOURCES -9% 18% -72% 0.019 6,525,521
PUR PURSUIT MINERALS 56% 17% -77% 0.007 2,472,640
BAT BATTERY MINERALS 17% 17% -74% 0.007 9,226,641
NVA NOVA MINERALS 42% 16% 200% 0.05 52,293,612
WML WOOMERA MINING 13% 13% -55% 0.016 3,112,298
JRV JERVOIS MINING -9% 12% 2% 0.23 147,575,504
KAI KAIROS MINERALS 25% 11% -41% 0.011 10,196,730
JRL JINDALEE RESOURCES 23% 11% 32% 0.315 13,472,989
VMC VENUS METALS 14% 11% 74% 0.2 30,215,736
CHN CHALICE GOLD MINES -12% 11% 61% 0.245 68,517,032
ASN ANSON RESOURCES -14% 11% -60% 0.03 17,998,854
PIO PIONEER RESOURCES 0% 8% -13% 0.013 19,613,864
FGR FIRST GRAPHENE -17% 7% -9% 0.14 68,885,160
CAZ CAZALY RESOURCES 14% 4% 78% 0.024 8,652,832
MNS MAGNIS ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES -21% 4% -71% 0.078 52,418,208
ORE OROCOBRE -26% 3% -25% 2.61 715,198,784
CXO CORE LITHIUM 0% 3% -37% 0.034 28,530,882
WKT WALKABOUT RESOURCES 3% 3% 41% 0.195 66,335,392
NMT NEOMETALS -9% 3% -15% 0.185 106,180,800
MIN MINERAL RESOURCES -3% 2% 10% 15.87 3,129,012,224
HRZ HORIZON MINERALS -18% 1% -39% 0.084 36,805,868
MTB MOUNT BURGESS MINING 50% 0% -25% 0.003 1,596,388
ADV ARDIDEN 33% 0% 0% 0.003 7,154,081
SVD SCANDIVANADIUM 17% 0% -46% 0.007 2,463,063
AEE AURA ENERGY 0% 0% -62% 0.005 7,946,357
SI6 SIX SIGMA METALS 0% 0% -25% 0.003 1,935,010
BDI BLINA MINERALS 0% 0% 0% 0.001 6,268,772
VRC VOLT RESOURCES 0% 0% -50% 0.011 19,127,204
CZR COZIRON RESOURCES 0% 0% -20% 0.009 19,090,818
MTH MITHRIL RESOURCES -10% 0% 50% 0.01 4,413,503
PM1 PURE MINERALS -16% 0% 7% 0.016 9,538,749
MCT METALICITY -20% 0% -69% 0.004 2,892,840
TAR TARUGA MINERALS -21% 0% -79% 0.011 3,569,883
PNN PEPINNINI LITHIUM -33% 0% -48% 0.002 2,933,863
CZN CORAZON MINING -38% 0% -50% 0.0025 6,024,740
CFE CAPE LAMBERT RESOURCES -43% 0% -75% 0.004 4,865,213
MQR MARQUEE RESOURCES -9% -2% -14% 0.05 3,180,505
GXY GALAXY RESOURCES -22% -2% -57% 0.88 370,578,816
BYH BRYAH RESOURCES -13% -3% -48% 0.04 3,934,080
MLL MALI LITHIUM -10% -3% -59% 0.072 23,483,760
EUR EUROPEAN LITHIUM -6% -5% -10% 0.074 50,791,276
CRL COMET RESOURCES -14% -5% -45% 0.019 5,328,000
LI3 LITHIUM CONSOLIDATED -26% -8% -61% 0.023 3,387,136
BOA BOADICEA RESOURCES -13% -9% 17% 0.21 11,675,107
PLL PIEDMONT LITHIUM -19% -9% 5% 0.1 86,553,624
E25 ELEMENT 25 -6% -9% -3% 0.155 14,265,002
SYA SAYONA MINING -29% -9% -44% 0.01 21,416,546
CLQ CLEAN TEQ -30% -10% -43% 0.19 138,095,136
LPI LITHIUM POWER INTERNATIONAL -30% -10% -2% 0.23 59,178,128
JMS JUPITER MINES -9% -11% -9% 0.24 489,747,744
LIT LITHIUM AUSTRALIA -15% -12% -40% 0.053 30,662,632
MLM METALLICA MINERALS 8% -13% -52% 0.014 4,536,664
PLS PILBARA MINERALS -25% -13% -67% 0.235 544,807,552
INR IONEER -8% -13% -15% 0.16 277,180,736
COB COBALT BLUE -11% -14% -23% 0.12 19,192,932
SRK STRIKE RESOURCES -16% -15% -5% 0.041 6,852,505
TLG TALGA RESOURCES -16% -16% -24% 0.4 97,459,656
PSC PROSPECT RESOURCES -12% -17% -17% 0.155 36,838,764
EMH EUROPEAN METALS -12% -17% -29% 0.23 26,872,070
BUX BUXTON RESOURCES -17% -17% -39% 0.072 9,523,880
KSN KINGSTON RESOURCES -17% -17% -20% 0.15 26,488,848
ZNC ZENITH MINERALS -17% -17% -27% 0.045 10,951,201
BSX BLACKSTONE MINERALS -24% -17% 30% 0.125 24,057,058
BSM BASS METALS -29% -17% -55% 0.004 14,049,373
GBE GLOBE METALS AND MINING 0% -18% -7% 0.014 6,522,913
DGR DGR GLOBAL -9% -18% -47% 0.067 39,243,640
OMH OM HOLDINGS -2% -18% -67% 0.415 302,835,584
BAR BARRA RESOURCES -14% -18% -49% 0.018 10,737,283
RNU RENASCOR RESOURCES -18% -18% -44% 0.009 11,863,365
CLA CELSIUS RESOURCES -36% -18% -55% 0.009 6,814,963
AGY ARGOSY MINERALS -21% -18% -52% 0.061 63,209,132
INF INFINITY LITHIUM -14% -19% -41% 0.048 10,247,184
BPL BROKEN HILL PROSPECTING -24% -19% -30% 0.013 3,307,614
SRN SUREFIRE RESOURCES 0% -20% -33% 0.0025 1,256,307
HAV HAVILAH RESOURCES -13% -20% -46% 0.083 21,491,038
AML AEON METALS -17% -20% -59% 0.11 81,308,368
LRS LATIN RESOURCES -20% -20% -93% 0.004 1,457,581
POW PROTEAN ENERGY -20% -20% -64% 0.003 1,245,749
AUZ AUSTRALIAN MINES -20% -20% -57% 0.011 41,336,908
RMX RED MOUNTAIN MINING -20% -20% -20% 0.004 3,512,147
ARE ARGONAUT RESOURCES -33% -20% -80% 0.004 6,313,523
LML LINCOLN MINERALS -33% -20% -33% 0.004 2,299,935
SYR SYRAH RESOURCES -31% -20% -70% 0.38 155,126,704
LCD LATITUDE CONSOLIDATED -27% -21% -31% 0.014 3,026,969
GME GME RESOURCES 4% -22% -38% 0.047 23,793,418
ARL ARDEA RESOURCES -19% -23% -11% 0.38 46,333,672
VML VITAL METALS 0% -23% 25% 0.009 21,426,112
CUL CULLEN RESOURCES -17% -23% -23% 0.01 1,894,648
FEL FE -23% -23% -33% 0.013 4,887,016
TON TRITON MINERALS -22% -24% -29% 0.029 32,899,202
BKT BLACK ROCK MINING -15% -24% -45% 0.041 25,786,692
THR THOR MINING 0% -25% -73% 0.006 6,459,881
AMD ARROW MINERALS -14% -25% -50% 0.006 5,444,373
MZZ MATADOR MINING -25% -25% -14% 0.175 21,814,818
EGR ECOGRAF -27% -25% -45% 0.055 18,462,824
NWC NEW WORLD RESOURCES -29% -25% 26% 0.012 10,478,249
TNG TNG -20% -25% -24% 0.072 76,469,072
IDA INDIANA RESOURCES -20% -26% -56% 0.02 3,669,894
DEV DEVEX RESOURCES -18% -26% 19% 0.05 9,708,517
BEM BLACKEARTH MINERALS -20% -27% -49% 0.035 4,091,599
LPD LEPIDICO -15% -27% -57% 0.011 50,970,352
KOR KORAB RESOURCES -27% -27% -70% 0.008 3,505,813
SO4 SALT LAKE POTASH -12% -29% 3% 0.555 161,110,848
MRR MINREX RESOURCES -13% -30% -53% 0.007 671,144
HIP HIPO RESOURCES -36% -30% 27% 0.014 5,411,147
POS POSEIDON NICKEL -9% -30% -32% 0.03 84,566,456
VR8 VANADIUM RESOURCES -25% -31% -83% 0.018 6,736,994
ANW AUS TIN MINING 0% -33% -93% 0.001 2,718,663
MLS METALS AUSTRALIA 0% -33% -71% 0.0015 3,207,353
NXE NEW ENERGY MINERALS 0% -33% -71% 0.008 1,333,553
CHK COHIBA MINERALS -11% -33% -33% 0.007 5,316,914
HNR HANNANS -25% -33% -33% 0.006 11,927,727
EUC EUROPEAN COBALT -29% -33% -43% 0.011 9,140,368
DHR DARK HORSE RESOURCES -33% -33% -50% 0.002 4,928,793
RLC REEDY LAGOON -33% -33% -50% 0.002 804,543
HWK HAWKSTONE MINING -33% -33% -76% 0.006 5,094,788
IEC INTRA ENERGY -43% -33% -71% 0.004 1,550,896
DTM DART MINING -15% -36% -36% 0.064 3,770,823
TMT TECHNOLOGY METALS AUSTRALIA -36% -36% -63% 0.085 9,193,977
PAN PANORAMIC RESOURCES -7% -37% -55% 0.195 152,626,080
SEI SPECIALITY METALS -19% -38% 59% 0.037 34,483,036
TKL TRAKA RESOURCES -38% -38% -67% 0.005 2,002,315
AZI ALTA ZINC -38% -38% 10% 0.005 11,010,744
GPX GRAPHEX MINING -38% -38% -63% 0.075 8,480,447
CNJ CONICO -33% -40% -64% 0.006 2,306,389
SUH SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE MINING -36% -41% -57% 0.016 1,511,512
WCN WHITE CLIFF MINERALS -13% -42% -42% 0.0035 1,646,225
GNM GREAT NORTHERN MINERALS -29% -44% -83% 0.005 1,734,679
HXG HEXAGON ENERGY MATERIALS -19% -46% -72% 0.038 11,112,469
GED GOLDEN DEEPS -48% -46% -61% 0.013 3,647,911
SBR SABRE RESOURCES -50% -50% -75% 0.001 851,717
AYR ALLOY RESOURCES -50% -50% -60% 0.002 2,088,677
FFR FIREFLY RESOURCES -39% -51% -88% 0.031 2,478,291
TICKER NAME 1 MONTH TOTAL RETURN YEAR TO DATE RETURN [2020] 1 YEAR TOTAL RETURN PRICE [intraday Friday] MARKET CAP [$AU]
GLN GALAN LITHIUM 16% 100% -58% 0.25 42,028,396
AVZ AVZ MINERALS 3% 56% 46% 0.068 154,722,848
LKE LAKE RESOURCES -19% 46% -34% 0.037 23,768,504
VUL VULCAN ENERGY RESOURCES 8% 35% 5% 0.21 8,940,000
LTR LIONTOWN RESOURCES 34% 32% 475% 0.11 194,808,304

 

GALAN LITHIUM (ASX:GLN) +100% YTD

Market Cap: ~$42m

‘Lithium triangle’ brines explorer Galan peaked at ~61c per share in early 2019 before dropping precipitously, finishing the year at 13c.

In January, global battery metals behemoth Ganfeng Lithium joined the explorer’s register via a subsidiary, igniting a rocket under the Galan share price. Galan is also hitting remarkable grades this year, culminating in a record 330m-long, 1010mg/l lithium interval at Rana de Sal.

READ: Could ‘Turmoil in the Triangle’ impact global lithium supply?

 

AVZ MINERALS (ASX:AVZ) +56% YTD

Market Cap: ~$155m

Like its peers, former market darling AVZ ended 2019 on a low. In 2020, investors are rewarding the stock as it drives the mammoth Manono project in the DRC toward a development decision.

We are no longer an exploration company having commenced site works for mining and are migrating towards becoming a fully-fledged mining company,” managing director Nigel Ferguson said in February.

“With the DFS expected soon, financing and offtakes to soon follow, we are stepping up to ensure a successful mining operation is established at Manono.”

 

LAKE RESOURCES (ASX:LKE) +46% YTD

Market Cap: ~$24m

Lake, also in the heart of the ‘lithium triangle’, spun a partner’s own success into a pretty substantial share price increase.

In January, Lake soared after confirming that a disruptive lithium brine processing tech from California-based Lilac Solutions worked really well at its projects.

In February Lake jumped again — this time when a fund led by American software magnate Bill Gates invested $US20m into Lilac.

 

VULCAN ENERGY RESOURCES (ASX:VUL) +35% YTD

Market Cap: ~$9m

Vulcan listed in 2018 as Norway focused copper-zinc explorer Koppar Resources.

In 2019, the company rebranded and refocused after getting its hands on a large, lithium-rich geothermal brine project in Germany.

For the European battery sector, a local and sustainable raw materials supply chain is increasingly important.

This is Vulcan’s angle – the explorer reckons it can produce a “unique zero carbon lithium product” from this project, already the largest in Europe.

READ: Geothermal lithium brine play Vulcan performs mind meld with German utility

 

LIONTOWN RESOURCES (ASX:LTR) +32% YTD

Market Cap: $177m

WA-based Liontown continues to perform remarkably as countless battery metals hopefuls slide into obscurity.

Liontown was one of 2019’s true lithium success stories, up 239 per cent in a horror year for both producers and explorers.

Up another ~30 per cent in 2020, the company talks often about benefiting from the next tsunami of lithium demand. It has pencilled in first production for 2024, about the time lithium demand is expected to climb strongly out of its current malaise.