Lithium Land: Does Australia have what it takes to become an EV manufacturing powerhouse?
All your ASX lithium news for Wednesday February 9.
The Australia Institute reckons the country could become a sustainable EV-making powerhouse.
In the new report Rebuilding Vehicle Manufacturing in Australia: Industrial Opportunities in an Electrified Future, the research centre says Australia has a unique combination of advantages that give us a “historic chance” to become a sustainable global manufacturer of electric vehicles – provided the federal government acts swiftly and decisively.
“When it comes to creating an EV manufacturing sector, Australia enjoys advantages other nations would die for: rich reserves of lithium and rare earths, strong industrial infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce, powerful training capacity, abundant renewable energy options, and untapped consumer potential,” said the report’s lead author Dr Mark Dean.
“And contrary to popular belief, we wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Thanks to the resilience of our remaining automotive manufacturing supply chain, a surprising amount of auto manufacturing work – including components, specialty vehicles, and engineering – still exists here.”
Dr Dean reckons the Government should use tax incentives to encourage firms involved in the extraction of key minerals – primarily lithium and rare earths – with local manufacturing capabilities, especially emerging Australian EV battery industries.
He also suggests major global manufacturers should be offered tax incentives, access to infrastructure, potential public capital participation, etc so they set up in Australian regions undergoing transition from carbon-intensive industries.
The company is acquiring 3 projects in the Ravensthorpe region of WA prospective for lithium, graphite, nickel-copper-PGE and gold.
The Young River lithium-graphite-nickel project contains historical lithium, graphite and nickel-cobalt prospects, with lithium grades up to 75ppm Li recorded and an anomalous trend over about 4km length.
The project is adjacent to the Halberts graphite deposit where Mineral Commodities Ltd (ASX:MRC) is advancing its Munglinup Graphite Project.
It’s also around 70km east of the Mt Cattlin lithium and tantalum mining operation operated by Allkem Ltd (ASX:AKE) which has a total reported mineral resource of 11Mt at 1.2% Li2O and 151ppm Ta2O5 for total contained metal of 131,800t Li2O and 3.7Mlbs Ta2O.
MTM will complete geophysical surveys and auger geochemical sampling to identify other exploration targets.
The Dalyup lithium project is around 50km northwest of Esperance and historical results recorded lithium grades up to 160ppm Li over a widespread area, indicating the potential for pegmatite-hosted mineralisation.
The multi-commodity Bremer lithium-gold-nickel-PGE project hosts a priority lithium target – an untested pegmatite intrusion that was identified during field mapping in 1986.
The mining services provider took a battering from unprecedented fall in iron ore prices through the first half of 2022, but the company also had some lithium news today.
MinRes signed a non-binding letter agreement with Albemarle (NYSE:ALB) to explore a potential expansion of the MARBL lithium joint venture.
Essentially, MinRes would resume management of the Wodgina mine – the ownership of which would change from 60/40 (ALB/MRL) to 50/50.
The ownership of Kemerton I/II would remain 60/40 (ALB/MRL), and would be fed by the Greenbushes mine.
Plus, a new 50/50 Joint Venture to own additional lithium conversion assets outside of Australia would be jointly funded by the companies, and Albemarle would be the operator of the assets.
“Through this agreement, we have a clear pathway to become one of the world’s largest downstream lithium producers by supplying significant volumes of lithium hydroxide using high-quality spodumene from our portfolio of Tier 1 hard rock mines in Western Australia,” MD Chris Ellison said.
The company also announced today it has taken possession and control of its 51% share of the Mt Marion spodumene offtake, from 1st February 2022.
MinRes has entered into a toll treatment agreement for its share of Mt Marion spodumene to be converted into lithium hydroxide by Ganfeng Lithium Co in China.
The term of the agreement is seven months, with an option to extend and the company anticipates first lithium hydroxide sales in May 2022.
Plus, MinRes is undertaking studies to growing spodumene production at Mt Marion through process optimisation and contact ore treatment.
Each of these studies is targeting an increase in annual spodumene production of 10% to 15%.
New drilling results “continue to support the geological model of extensive lithium mineralisation hosted in lepidolite rich pegmatite dykes-veins and adjacent metasediments,” PAM said today.
MD Paul Lock said the infill and extensional sampling has delivered a material increase in overall lithium content at the project.
“This is a good outcome in the lead up to the reporting of an inaugural mineral resource,” he said.
“With infill assaying our objective is to determine whether metasediment adjacent to and in-between lithium and or tin rich pegmatites is mineralised, and if so whether this mineralisation is above our lithium cut-off grade, which is 0.20% Li2O.
“If so, then our overall mineral resource will increase, inclusive of the higher grading pegmatite intersections previously announced.
“In turn this positions PAM well as what may be dilutionary waste in the mining process has the potential to be economic.”
PAM expects to report mineral resources in Q1 FY22.