China’s political pressure on closing $5bn SQM deal futile
Chinese authorities intervention on behalf of Tianqi’s attempt to acquire a 32% interest in Chile’s SQM, the world’s second largest lithium producer did not bring an anticipated result.
Chinese Ambassador Xu Bu openly condemned the move by the country’s regulator Corfo, which turned to antitrust bodies to block the sale of SQM stake to Tianqi. Bu said opposing the stake sale could “leave negative influences on the development of economic and commercial relations between both countries.”
Main argument behind the deal blockade is that if China’s Tianqi acquired a stake in SQM, the top three producers would control at least 80% of the global market by 2020.
Eduardo Bitrán has been vocal that a sale to Tianqi or any company backed by China could affect “the competitive rivalry of the lithium market”.
Nutrien, an entity which creation was a direct result of merger between Potash Corp. and Agrium, has to sale its interest in SQM by April 2019, as part of the condition behind its creation.
US chemical company Albemarle Corporation, which is also said to want the stake in the Chilean lithium producer, is a close partner of Tianqi. Together they have 100% stake in Talison Lithium.
European Battery Alliance call for action
The European Battery Alliance (EBA) has been initiated by the EU Commission. Their latest action plan outlines a schedule until 2023 and names various players along the entire value chain. The aim is to set up a European cell production to break the dependency on Asian suppliers.
It is calling on the European industry to take advantage of the global market for batteries, which is expected to reach €250bn annually by 2025.
European Battery Alliance aims to work across the value chain, gathering key players round the table such as Tesla, Volkswagen, Daimler, Ford, Renault, BMW, BASF as well as leading research institutes and commission services.
One of the key points on the agenda is a facilitation of the expansion/creation of European sources lithium to ensure supply within Europe.
Australian’s Lithium Ore exports short lived?
According to Pilbara Minerals managing director Ken Brinsden exporting unprocessed Australian lithium will prove to be a short-lived trend.
Most Australian lithium is exported in concentrate form, but strong demand for the commodity over recent years has prompted some miners to export lithium-rich spodumene ore in unprocessed form under the term “direct shipping ore” or “DSO”.
Article in OilPrice.com beside restating the obvious about the strong demand for lithium, and competition of securing the sources of supply makes some interesting points about the shifting focus from oil and US-China trade (war?) rivalry:
“For the last five years, the commodities world has focused on the epic showdown between OPEC and U.S. shale drillers for oil market share. But it’s the war over “white petroleum” that will dominate the next decade.
In early April, the U.S. government slapped a big tariff on imported Chinese lithium batteries, part of a tariff on Chinese goods worth $50 billion.
That means that lithium miners will see a bigger market for their products—and a surge of investment into North American mining, which has the lowest risk factor in the world.”
However, we see one point, made in the article as quite doubtful considering the numbers:
“China may be cornering the market on South American lithium to feed its battery factories and churn out electric cars, but protectionist policies by the U.S. and aggressive expansion into European lithium production may cut the Chinese out of the global battery market.”
Father of lithium battery, on its outlook for the future
Akira Yoshino is considered by many as a father of lithium battery. A chemist who helped develop some crucial breakthroughs while working at Asahi Kasai (Japanese chemical giant). Yoshino’s work directly leads to a lithium-ion battery that uses lithium cobalt oxide and holds much more energy than the standard batteries at that time.
For his achievements Mr. Yoshino received the Japan Prize in April of this year, at ceremony attended by Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
Asked for the future of battery developments, and fields of battery research that he sees as particularly interesting Mr. Yoshino replies:
“I would say that major breakthroughs have been achieved in the past few years in the field of solid-state batteries.
The advantage of solid state batteries is that against expectations it has proven to be quite excellent in terms of the output properties and low-temperature performance properties.
From a scientific point of view, we’re now seeing the rising interest and research in the basics of the behaviour of the lithium-ion battery.”
The full interview under:
$25m raised on Zimbabwe’s Arcadia Lithium Project
Australia’s listed Prospect Resources set aside at least $25 million to fund the construction of a mine and plant at its Arcadia lithium project close to the long-established Arcturus gold mine.
In 2017, the Zimbabwe awarded the company National Project Status to develop Arcadia.
The project is the largest lithium deposit in Africa comprising 808 000 tons of lithium oxide.
The company targets to complete process plant design at its Arcadia lithium project and execute first mining contracts in the next quarter.
Galaxy Resources involves JP Morgan
According to Reuters, Galaxy Resources has appointed JP Morgan Australia to evaluate “strategic options” for its Sal de Vida lithium and potash project in Argentina.
Sources said Galaxy was looking to offload its stake in the large and high-quality deposit to Chinese or Korean interests.
“The company is currently in discussions with a range of parties in relation to potential offtake and strategic partnership opportunities,” Galaxy stated.
Lithium drilling programme underway in Ghana
IronRidge Resources Ltd has started drilling at Ewoyaa lithium pegmatite project in Ghana. Company plans to drill a total of 7,000 metres.
The work constitutes a part of wider exploration and soil sampling conducted by the company across its African lithium portfolio.
Western Australia to dominate global lithium production
In the forecast made by Citi analyst Clarke Wilkins, West Australia is said to dominate world production landscape from its hard rock mines by the end of 2018.
“West Australia will be over half of the (world’s) lithium supply, effectively, by the end of this year. [..] all of the world’s hard rock mines are basically in WA. [..] There are projects outside of Australia, but it’s unlikely that any of those will be really of material scale production until a number of years away. Because you’ve got infrastructure, you’ve got a mining culture, the biggest projects tend to be in Australia, so Australia does lead the world in terms of development of [..]hard rock mines.” Mr Wilkins said.
Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant
Australia’s first lithium battery recycling plant has been officially opened in Victoria.
The plant, established by Envirostream Australia, is the first in the nation to recycle lithium batteries.
Only 3 per cent of Australian batteries are currently recovered – the lowest rate in the OECD. Until now most of used batteries went to landfill or been shipped to China for processing.
Is magnesium to replace lithium in the long term?
Magnesium is becoming more and more of interest as a material for battery researchers. Potentially, batteries made from magnesium metal can have higher energy density, greater stability, and lower cost than lithium-ion batteries according to predictions of scientists at NREL (a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy)
Chunmei Ban, a scientist in NREL’s stated: “The dominant lithium ion battery technology is approaching the maximum amount of energy that can be stored per unit volume, so there is an urgent need to explore new battery chemistries that can provide more energy at lower cost.”
Magnesium has several potential advantages over lithium in battery applications. Each magnesium atom releases two electrons during the battery discharge phase, while lithium only one. This provides for the possibility of delivering nearly twice the electrical energy that is possible from a lithium cell now.
First lithium shipment from Namibia
Desert Lion delivered the first shipment of lithium concentrate to the port of Walvis Bay in Namibia on the basis of off-take agreement with Chinese lepidolite converter Jiangxi Jinhui Lithium.
The shipment of 30,000 tons of lithium concentrate material will generate gross revenues of approximately $3.8 million for Desert Lion Energy.
Under the off-take agreement Jinhui is required to purchase all lithium concentrate product from Phase 1 of the company’s production plan estimated at around 150,000–160,000 MTs.
Chinese finalize acquisition of Canadian lithium company
Tibet Summit Resources Co. Ltd. and its partner NextView have finalized a deal to acquire a Canadian lithium producer Lithium X for $206 million, the deal announced in December recently get an approval from Canadian regulators, who seem to be more open for business than its South American counterparts.
The deal will be arranged through the Hong Kong-listed NextView New Energy Lion Hong Kong Ltd. Tibet Summit Resources owns 45% of the shares in the company, according to the statements.
The Shanghai-based Tibet Summit Resources is active in smelting, production, and sale of non-ferrous metals. The company primarily offers zinc sulphate, indium, zinc ingot, zinc oxide, sulfuric acid, cadmium ingot, wet lead, zinc concentrate, lead bullion, lead pig, zinc ash and distributes its products mainly in Eastern China. Tibet Summit Resources Co., Ltd. is based in Shanghai and it will gain access to Lithium X’s portfolio including its two flagship projects in Argentina’s Salta province.
Further acquisitions seem to be non-discussible for Chinese lithium industry players, across all the value chain, as around 80% of lithium needs to be imported to cover domestic needs.