European Lithium: from explorer to producer
European Lithium Ltd appointed new CEO Dietrich Wanke who is expected to drive the company in its transition from lithium explorer to producer. The company is placed on the path to produce lithium from Wolfsberg Lithium Project in Austria in 2020.
The new CEO boasts more than 30 years of experience in management at operational level for underground and open cut mines.
New report on global lithium-ion battery market
According to Zion Market Research report, global lithium-ion battery market was valued at around USD 31.17 billion in 2016 and is expected to generate revenue of USD 67.70 billion by end of 2022, growing at a CAGR of slightly above 13.70% between 2017 and 2022.
Japanese consortium explores solid state batteries options
New developments on solid state batteries which are safer and have higher energy density than today’s lithium-ion batteries take place mostly in USA, Japan and France. Some believe that solid state batteries will completely change a competitive landscape in EV space.
For lithium-ion batteries automakers build large structures around cells to isolate them from fire, and big extra cooling systems to maintain safe temperatures. Solid state batteries wouldn’t need these structures what would substantially reduce costs.
Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have joined forces with battery makers Panasonic and GS Yuasa, as well as the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in a $14 million program to develop solid state batteries. The consortium has set targets to build batteries with a 340-mile range by 2025 and a 500-mile range by 2030.
So far only french transportation company Bollore managed to scale up production of solid-state batteries and built a fleet of its BlueCars that are employed in car-sharing services in Paris and Indianapolis. One of drawbacks of solid-state batteries is that they don’t produce as much power as batteries with liquid electrolyte, so it is necessary to combine smaller batteries with ultracapacitors that can discharge quickly when the driver press the accelerator, then replenish the charge more slowly over time.
Brazil’s reserves could reach 8% of global’s total
Brazil’s lithium reserves are expected to grow to 8% of the world’s total. Today, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, together, account for 70% of the world’s known lithium reserves
Cathode chemistry designations
There are two main types of cathode chemistry used in batteries for EV cars: NMC and NCA.
NCA stands for Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum and NMC for Nickel, Manganese, and Cobalt. Tesla uses NCA chemistry while nearly all others use NMC. The Germans use NMC. LG Chem and GM use NMC. Samsung uses NMC.
Digits after abbreviations stand for proportion of metals content hence NMC 811 implies 80% nickel, 10% Manganese, and 10% Cobalt.
Battery industry tries to minimize its reliance on Cobalt due to its price and risky supply chain.
China suspects other countries lobbied Chile to block Chinese firms from purchasing a stake in SQM, its trade representative told Reuters.
“We have our suspicions. But we don’t know why they did it,” said Liu Rutao, China’s trade and economic representative to Chile.
Liu said China believed that the center-left former government had politicized the deal, which he said should have been left to markets and regulators: “This is a commercial transaction. Public officials (in Chile) linked it to politics. We don’t want to see that,”.
Going forward, Liu said China would prioritize investments in lithium over copper in Chile. The South American country is the world’s top producer of copper and holds around half of its lithium reserves.
“Copper is the raw material … of the 21st century. Lithium is (the raw material) of the 22nd century, of the future,” Liu said.
Marcinga salt flat dispute
Minera Salar Blanco which is in 50 percent owned by Australia’s Lithium Power International, with smaller stakes held by Canada’s Bearing Lithium and local minority shareholders has sued Chile to block state-run Codelco from exploiting a lithium deposit where both have claims, according to a lawsuit filed in March being carefully watched by potential investors courted by the country’s new government.
The little-known and remote Maricunga salt flat is far smaller than the famous Salar de Atacama, where top lithium producers Albemarle and SQM operate. Maricunga’s size of 145 sq km makes it less than 5 percent of Salar de Atacama territory. Yet it is known as one of the highest-grade lithium brine salars globally.
Zimbabwe’s lithium dreams
Zimbabwean Kamativi Tailings Company (mining company) is considering upgrading a local nickel refinery to produce battery grade lithium or alternatively build a new lithium carbonate plant at a cost of up to $150 million. Zimbabwe claims it has the potential capacity to supply 20 percent of the world’s lithium.
John McTaggart, Kamativi Tailings Company managing director, told parliament his company is negotiating with Zimbabwean-listed miner RioZim to upgrade its Empress Nickel Refinery, which is 120 km (75 miles) west of the capital so it can produce lithium carbonate.
But if this failed, Kamativi could look at setting up a lithium carbonate plant in Zimbabwe at a cost of $100-$150 million, McTaggart said.
New lithium refinery in Kwinana, Western Australia
Western Australia Lithium, a 50/50 joint venture between Kidman Resources Ltd and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile, has decided to build its planned lithium refinery in Kwinana, Western Australia. Construction on the facility is expected to start in mid-2019 and to create 400 jobs.
The refinery will produce about 40,000 tonnes per year of lithium carbonate and/or lithium hydroxide.
First batch of lithium carbonate from Argosy Minerals
Argosy Minerals Limited expects to produce its first battery-grade lithium carbonate by the end of May from an industrial-scale pilot plant at the Rincon Lithium Project in Argentina.
Stage I processing test work is continuing following commissioning of the plant near the project in the Lithium Triangle in Salta province.
Lithium trading snapshot
High availability of lithium compounds in China (particularly from Qinhai province) from the processing of Australian hard rock keeps prices low. Battery grade lithium hydroxide premium over lithium carbonate keeps increasing. This grade of lithium will be in the growing demand in mid and long term as China’s manufacturing base moves slowly to produce high power and density cathodes and batteries which make use of lithium hydroxide. The change is driven by new subsidies that focus on production of high-power and high-energy density cathodes.
CIF price for hydroxide and carbonate is still lower than domestic price. Tianqi and Ganfeng are increasing domestic capacity to bring up the supply.
Increasing lithium royalties contributions
The Western Australia’s resources royalty revenue is down $164 million thanks to iron ore losses – but that has been partly offset by increases in gold and the new darling of the mining industry, lithium.
Royalty income from commodities excluding iron ore was expected to rise $160 million, or 28.4 per cent, to a record $724 million in 2017-18, led by a $65 million rise in lithium royalties.