High Voltage: Will the global market follow where Chinese lithium carbonate prices lead?
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Technical and battery grade lithium carbonate prices increased by over 20% in the first two weeks of September in the Chinese domestic market.
And they’re now up 188.9% and 215% respectively this year.
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s lithium price assessment said this is due to surging demand and raw material supply concerns which have combined to push Chinese domestic prices up to their highest levels since mid-2018.
“Throughout August and early September, the price rally for lithium chemicals and feedstock has been re-ignited on incredibly strong downstream demand, especially within the Chinese domestic market, which acts as a bellwether for the rest of the world’s lithium market,” Benchmark analyst George Miller said.
Carbonate price increases are outpacing lithium hydroxide – and could soon race ahead.
And China EXW lithium hydroxide prices rose 14.2% in the first half of September, up 162.7% year-to-date.
On September 11 protestors demanded a halt to the development of Rio Tinto’s (ASX:RIO) proposed $2.4 billion Jadar lithium project in Serbia.
It’s the latest in a wave of community protests against battery metal projects in Western jurisdictions.
It’s a bit of a pickle because Europe is poised to become the second-largest consumer of lithium chemicals worldwide within the next decade – and the goal is supply chain accountability and security.
Not to mention Serbia is seeking to join the EU and environmental regulatory improvement has been cited as one key area where the country needs to improve.
Roskill’s Dominic Wells said countries like Serbia need to decide what mineral policy direction best suits their needs.
“They can maintain their reliance on overseas imports and have little direct control regarding the environmental cost of production, though will be insulated from the environmental impacts,” he said.
“Alternatively, they can develop domestic sources of these chemicals, set their own standards of production but bear the environmental cost and attempt to lessen it where possible.
“Given the growing number of European mining projects looking to capitalise on domestic demand for lithium chemicals, further conflict between communities, miners, and the governments is inevitable,” Wells said.
“Regulation such as the European Union’s proposed Battery Passport scheme and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism touch on the issue, attempting to improve the environmental cost of non-EU producers.
“However, they have little to no impact on the conditions of domestic production. Should battery metal projects be developed, policymakers in lithium producing countries will need to self-regulate the conditions of production to appease both local groups and the producers themselves.”
#Serbia: “Given the growing number of European mining projects looking to capitalize on domestic demand for #lithium chemicals, further conflict between communities, miners, and the governments is inevitable.” https://t.co/rYwTvx8xEA
— Juan Carlos Zuleta (@jczuleta) September 20, 2021
In other battery metals news, Chinese producer Pangang Group Vanadum and Titanium Resources signed an agreement with Dalian Bolong New Materials (BNM) to develop and promote vanadium redox battery (VRB) technology in China.
Roskill analyst Jack Anderson said the companies will also promote the potential of VRB use within the steel industry to reduce carbon consumption, new energy power generation and peak shaving services.
“Over the past couple of years an increasing number of primary and secondary vanadium producers have incorporated VRBs as an end-use application into their own business models,” he said.
“This represents a new precedent in vanadium market dynamics and has been reinforced by vanadium producers planning to vertically integrate mining and recycling operations downstream to VRBs.”
It’s part of China’s aim to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060 as part of the Paris Agreement.
“In order to achieve this, and in line with the country’s 14th five-year plan, China intends to massively expand its renewables energy capacity, which will require large scale energy storage,” Anderson said.
“Despite the large potential for Li-ion battery energy storage in China, the country’s significant vanadium production boosts VRB’s domestic potential.”
Here’s how a basket of ASX stocks with exposure to lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel, and vanadium are performing>>>
Scroll or swipe to reveal table. Click headings to sort. Best viewed on a laptop:
Only 46 of the 130 ASX battery metals stocks on our list posted gains last week.
Over the past year 55 stocks have posted a gain of 100% or more.
There were several standouts, including Adavale Resources (ASX:ADD) up 35% after completing three drill holes at its Kabanga Jirani Nickel Project in Tanzania.
Infinity Lithium (ASX:INF) was up 25% off the back of news it had delivered the first battery grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate and lithium carbonate produced at bench-scale from its San José project in Spain.
The company has commenced pilot-scale roasting which is scheduled for completion in early October and is a key step in the feasibility study for the project – which is poised to supply lithium to the European battery industry.
And Sayona was up 18% after a project review showed the potential to increase the lithium resource at its newly acquired North American Lithium (NAL) mine in Québec, Canada.
In 2017, NAL had a total foreign mineral resource estimate of 39.3 million tonnes at 1.04% Li2O and a conversion to Australia’s JORC standard is expected by the end of the year.