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The richest seam: Mining companies have dug themselves out of a hole (The Economist – March 11, 2017)

http://www.economist.com/

Electric vehicles and batteries are expected to create huge demand for copper and cobalt

FOR mining investors there is something sinfully alluring about Glencore, an Anglo-Swiss metals conglomerate. It is the world’s biggest exporter of coal, a singularly unfashionable commodity. It goes where others fear to tread, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has an unsavoury reputation for violence and corruption. It recently navigated sanctions against Russia to strike a deal with Rosneft, the country’s oil champion.

Yet Glencore could still acquire a halo for itself. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of copper and the biggest of cobalt, much of which comes from its investment in the DRC. These are vital ingredients for clean-tech products and industries, notably electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries.

The potential of “green” metals and minerals, which along with copper and cobalt include nickel, lithium and graphite, is adding to renewed excitement about investing in mining firms as they emerge from the wreckage of a $1trn splurge of over-investment during the China-led commodities supercycle, which began in the early 2000s. Continue Reading →

Argentina Eyeing Lithium Superpower Status Amid Battery Boom – by James Attwood and Jonathan Gilbert (Bloomberg News – March 6, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Argentina has some good news for Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc., and bad news for lithium producers elsewhere: the country may be about to flood the market with lithium.

After President Mauricio Macri removed currency and capital controls and taxes introduced by his predecessors, about 40 foreign companies began to consider opportunities in Argentina’s mining industry, more than half of those in lithium, according to Mining Secretary Daniel Meilan.

Industry heavyweights Albemarle Corp., Soc. Quimica y Minera de Chile SA, Eramet SA and Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. are among groups looking at expanding or building new lithium operations in Argentina, as part of a $20 billion pipeline of mining projects through 2025, Meilan said Monday in an interview. China’s CITIC is also looking for opportunities, according to the government. Continue Reading →

Kirkland Lake Gold pioneering battery-powered mining – by Matt Durnan (Northern Ontario Business – February 28, 2017)

https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/

Kirkland Lake Gold is moving away from the use of diesel fuel in its mining operations, with the introduction of lithium-ion battery-powered scoops and trucks in its underground gold mines. To date, the company has invested more than $15 million into the development of battery-powered equipment.

On Feb. 27, at Science North in Sudbury, the gold miner showed off its newest addition to the fleet: a ‘153’ load-haul-dump (LHD) truck, manufactured by California-based Artisan Vehicle Systems.

Artisan specializes in battery-powered mining equipment, and Kirkland Lake Gold is operating about one third of its equipment fleet with Artisan battery cells. Continue Reading →

Electric car boom spurs investor scramble for cobalt – by (Reuters U.S. – February 14, 2017)

http://www.reuters.com/

LONDON – Investors are buying up physical cobalt anticipating that shortages of the metal, a key component of lithium-ion batteries used in electrical cars, will spur prices to their highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis.

Prices for cobalt metal have climbed nearly 50 percent since September to five-year peaks around $19 a lb as stricter emissions controls boost demand for electric vehicles, especially in China, struggling with ruinous pollution levels in some cities. (For a graphic on how Lithium-ion battery works click tmsnrt.rs/2kOUBNQ)

Consultants CRU Group say electric car and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales could hit 4.4 million in 2021 and more than six million by 2025, from 1.1 million last year. By 2020, 75 percent of lithium-ion batteries will contain cobalt, whose properties allow electric cars to extend their range between charges, according to eCobalt Solutions, which produces battery grade cobalt salts. Continue Reading →

Battery expert Jeff Dahn wins major Canadian science prize – by Ivan Semeniuk (Globe and Mail – February 7, 2017)

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

When Jeff Dahn answers the phone at work, the first thing you notice is the sound of blowing air.

“Our air conditioners run in the winter,” said Dr. Dahn, a professor of physics at Dalhousie University and a leading expert in battery technology. Working in rooms packed from floor to ceiling with testing equipment, all of which generates enormous amounts of heat, he and his team have spent years advancing the subtle science of lithium-ion batteries – the slim little power packs that have become key enablers of the smartphone era.

In recognition of his long and impressive track record in the field, Dr. Dahn has been named this year’s winner of the Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada’s most prestigious science prize. But at 60, Dr. Dahn shows little sign of powering down. Continue Reading →

Mine prospect near Nome could help make batteries for laptops and cars – by Alex DeMarban (Alaska Dispatch News – February 2, 2017)

https://www.adn.com/

A preliminary economic analysis has found that a graphite mining prospect near Nome — an effort to capitalize on a potential supply crunch from China and a growing appetite for electric vehicles — could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars if it’s developed.

“It shows we have an economically viable project,” Doug Smith, executive chair of Graphite One Resources, said in an interview. “And it shows in general what size we would be, and what kind of processing facilities we need. Now the next phase is to refine and optimize that.”

The graphite deposit in the mountains 37 miles north of Nome in Northwest Alaska is considered to be one of the world’s largest. But the Graphite Creek project, as it’s known, would be a relatively small operation for a mine, company officials said from their offices in Canada. Continue Reading →

Electric Cars Could Cause Big Oil This Much Damage – by Jess Shankleman (Bloomberg News – February 1, 2017)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The growth of battery-powered cars could be as disruptive to the oil market as the OPEC market-share war that triggered the price crash of 2014, potentially wiping hundreds of billions of dollars off the value from fossil fuel producers in the next decade.

About 2 million barrels a day of oil demand could be displaced by electric vehicles by 2025, equivalent in size to the oversupply that triggered the biggest oil industry downturn in a generation over the past three years, according to research from Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank, published Thursday.

A similar 10 percent loss of market share caused the collapse of the U.S. coal mining industry and wiped more than a 100 billion euros ($108 billion) off the value of European utilities from 2008 to 2013, the report said. Continue Reading →

Chile to invite bids on value-added lithium tech in April – by Rosalba O’Brien and Felipe Iturrieta (Reuters U.S. – January 17, 2017)

http://www.reuters.com/

SANTIAGO – Chile will hold a tender in April to encourage companies to use its vast lithium resources to move it up the value chain with cathode or battery production, the head of the country’s development agency told Reuters on Tuesday.

It is pressing ahead on deals with international firms as relations remain bitter with local lithium producer SQM SQM_pb.SN, where royalties arbitration is expected to take at least another year, said Eduardo Bitran, executive vice president of Corfo, which manages Chile’s lithium leases.

The price of lithium, a rare bright spot in commodities, has rocketed in recent years and is expected to continue to rise alongside demand. Lithium plays a small but essentially irreplaceable part in powering electric car batteries. Continue Reading →

[Lithium Mining] Harsh desert climate in Chile is one place that literally helps to power the world – by Neil Vorano (Driving.ca – January 11, 2017)

http://driving.ca/

You can see the road we’re going down with electric cars; though they still only make up a very small percentage of all the vehicles in North America, their sales are growing. And you only need to look at the hype surrounding the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt and, a little later, the Tesla Model 3, to see how people are getting behind this technology. Continue Reading →

Tesla starts Gigafactory battery cell production – by Tom Randall (Australian Financial Review – January 5, 2017)

http://www.afr.com/

The Gigafactory has been activated. Hidden in the scrubland east of Reno, Nevada, where cowboys gamble and wild horses still roam, a diamond-shaped factory of outlandish proportions is emerging from the sweat and promises of Tesla chief executive Elon Musk.

It’s known as the Gigafactory, and today its first battery cells are rolling off production lines to power the company’s energy storage products and, before long, the Model 3 electric car.

The start of mass production is a huge milestone in Tesla’s quest to electrify transportation, and it brings to America a manufacturing industry – battery cells – that’s long been dominated by China, Japan, and South Korea. Continue Reading →

Electric cars spark lithium, nickel and cobalt mining boom – by Marcus Leroux (The Australian – December 28, 2016)

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/

The China boom has come and gone but miners say a new scramble for resources looms, triggered by the dawn of the electric car age.

The motor industry is placing huge bets on electric cars becoming mainstream over the next decade. Miners have been busily looking under the bonnets and inside batteries and decided that they will have to dig up a lot more lithium, copper, nickel and cobalt.

Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer controlled by Elon Musk, has said that it would require today’s entire worldwide production of lithium ion batteries to meet demand for its target of half a million cars in the second half of the decade. Continue Reading →

The new OPEC: Who will supply the lithium needed to run the future’s electric cars? – by Justina Crabtree (CNBC.com – December 30, 2016)

http://www.cnbc.com/

The automotive industry’s focus on electrification has accelerated in 2016. Volkswagen Chairman Herbert Deiss told CNBC at the Paris Motor Show in November that “electric mobility will take off by 2020,” while Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in May his aim for annual production to be at 1 million vehicles by this same year.

The onus is now on rechargeable batteries – rather than petrol – to propel the automotive industry into its proposed greener future, with lithium ion cells being the prevailing form of this technology.

“Lithium is a pretty abundant element naturally,” Jamie Speirs, a fellow in energy analysis and policy at Imperial College London, told CNBC via telephone. But, though worldwide production of the metal is increasing year on year, he detailed that “the current supply chain will not match up with lithium demand by, say, 2040.” Continue Reading →

Big Utility Sees Pathway to $10 Oil – by Francois De Beaupuy (Bloomberg News – December 20, 2016)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The oil industry must brace for five energy “tsunamis” that threaten to drag prices as low as $10 a barrel in less than a decade, according to Engie SA’s innovation chief.

The falling cost of solar power and battery storage, rising sales of electric vehicles, increasingly “smart” buildings and cheap hydrogen will all weigh on crude, Thierry Lepercq, head of research, technology and innovation at the French energy company, said in an interview.

“Even if oil demand continues to climb until 2025, its price could drop to $10 if markets anticipate a significant fall in demand,” Lepercq said at his office near Paris. Crude last slumped to that level in 1998. Continue Reading →

Designing a Safer Battery for Smartphones (That Won’t Catch Fire) – by John Markoff (New York Times – December 11, 2016)

http://www.nytimes.com/

SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Zimmerman likes to shock his guests by using a hammer to drive a nail through a solid polymer lithium metal battery. Nothing happens — and that’s a good thing.

Mr. Zimmerman’s battery is a new spin on lithium-ion batteries, which are widely used in products from smartphones to cars. Today’s lithium-ion batteries, as anyone who has followed Samsung’s recent problems with flammable smartphones may know, can be ticking time bombs. The liquids in them can burst into flames if there is a short circuit of some sort. And driving a nail into one of them is definitely not recommended.

With that in mind, Mr. Zimmerman’s demonstration commands attention. His Woburn, Mass., start-up, Ionic Materials, is at the cutting edge of an effort to design safer batteries. The company is working on “solid” lithium polymer batteries that greatly reduce their combustible nature. Continue Reading →

Glencore sees nickel shortage as electric vehicle demand burgeons – by Martin Creamer (MiningWeekly.com – December 2, 2016)

http://www.miningweekly.com/

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Diversified mining and marketing company Glencore sees a shortage in nickel arising as a result of burgeoning demand from electric vehicle (EV) production.

Batteries used in EVs are consuming about 100 000 t of nickel demand and if 10% of the world’s vehicle fleet transitions to electric power, 400 000 t of nickel would be required on current yearly production of 1.95-million tonnes.

“We see a shortage in nickel,” Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg said in response to BNP Paribas analyst Sylvain Brunet during a conference call in which Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online took part. Continue Reading →