Archive | Lithium

Chile politics put Potash in tight spot on SQM stake sale – by Dave Sherwood and Felipe Iturrieta (Reuters U.S. – December 14, 2017)

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – The chance to own a stake in Chile’s SQM, one of the world’s top lithium producers, has attracted several potential suitors as prices for the so-called white gold – a key ingredient in electric car batteries – have skyrocketed.

But the buyer of the 32 percent of SQM being sold by Canadian Potash Corp of Saskatchewan‘s, which needs to divest the stake as part of a merger, will need to navigate tricky politics well before any deal is inked.

With a presidential election in Chile on Sunday, conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera has emerged as the favorite with investors, but neither he nor his opponent in the second-round runoff, center-left candidate Alejandro Guillier, have expressed a favorable view of the scandal-plagued miner. Continue Reading →

Lithium stocks have had a dazzling year – are there more profits to come? – by Ian McGugan (Globe and Mail – December 12, 2017)

Lithium, a lightweight metal essential to the latest generation of high-tech batteries, possesses two features most investments lack.

For one thing, future demand is nearly certain to surge as battery-driven vehicles grab an increasing share of the automotive market. For another, a handful of companies now dominate production of lithium.

Combine growing demand with today’s oligopoly of producers and it’s clear why three major U.S.-listed lithium miners have been among the best non-bitcoin investments of 2017. Shares of Sociedad Quimica Y Minera de Chile, the Chilean giant better known as SQM, have surged 80 per cent since January. Over the same period, Albemarle Corp., up 45 per cent, and FMC Corp., up 53 per cent, have also enjoyed dazzling runs. Continue Reading →

Small Canadian miners in pole position for electric vehicle battery boon – by Nicole Mordant (Reuters U.S. – December 11, 2017)

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Canadian developers of cobalt and lithium mines stand to benefit from a round of investments from the makers of electric vehicles and the batteries powering them, a potential game-changer for small miners short on money to develop deposits of these critical battery ingredients.

Toronto-listed cobalt companies, Ecobalt Solutions and Fortune Minerals, are in talks, ranging from preliminary to more advanced, with more than a dozen groups, including car and battery makers, on financing their projects, their chief executives told Reuters.

The interest in miners from downstream players along the battery supply chain – a new area of investment for most – would provide a life-line to miners at time when equity funding for developers remains relatively tight after a five-year downturn on weak metals prices. Continue Reading →

Electric vehicle revolution a rare investment opportunity as metals demand spikes – by Henry Lazenby – December 1, 2017)

VANCOUVER ( – The rate at which global automotive markets are adopting electric vehicles (EVs) is accelerating at a much faster pace than even some of the keenest market observers estimated at the start of 2017, and is opening up once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunities among the four key ‘energy metals’ – lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite.

Since the beginning of 2017, the market has reached a new peak of lithium-ion battery capacity in the pipeline. An additional 153 GWh has been added to planned capacity build-outs this year alone, taking the total to 372 GWh.

“But when you look at where we need to be by 2025 – 750 GWh, of which 645 GWh is for EVs – we are still way short. What the megafactory trend is doing, however, is creating a new production base that did not exist before. Continue Reading →

Zimbabwe to miss out on energy mineral spend despite regime change – by Brendan Ryan (MiningMX – November 30, 2017)

WHILE Zimbabwe has the geological resource base to step up production of lithium the political risk in the country is still so great it is highly unlikely any investment for new lithium mines will flow to Zimbabwe despite the recent regime change.

That was the dominant view from a webcast conference organised by the Investing in Mining Indaba which assessed the potential for African countries to cash in on rising demand for “energy minerals” – in particular cobalt and lithium.

Zimbabwe is currently the largest producer of lithium in Africa accounting for some 6% of world supply which it produces mainly as a by-product from other mining operations such as tin. Continue Reading →

Renewable Energy Isn’t Perfect, But It’s Far Better Than Fossil Fuels – by David Suzuki (Huffington Post – November 29, 2017)

In their efforts to discredit renewable energy and support continued fossil fuel burning, many anti-environmentalists have circulated a dual image purporting to compare a lithium mine with an oilsands operation. It illustrates the level of dishonesty to which some will stoop to keep us on our current polluting, climate-disrupting path (although in some cases it could be ignorance.)

The image is a poor attempt to prove that lithium batteries and renewable energy are worse for the environment than energy from oilsands bitumen. The first problem is that the “lithium mine” is actually BHP Billiton’s Escondida copper mine in Chile (the world’s largest.)

The bottom image is of an Alberta oilsands operation, but it’s an in situ underground facility and doesn’t represent the enormous open-pit mining operations used to extract most bitumen. Continue Reading →

China’s electric-car push sparks gold rush for lithium – by Shunsuke Tabeta and Naoyuki Toyama (Nikkei Asian Review – November 27, 2017)

Companies chase deals with Chilean, Australian miners

GUANGZHOU/SAO PAULO — China’s aggressive promotion of electric vehicles has kicked off a global hunt for lithium, spurring record prices for the material vital to the production of batteries used in such cars.

“We must secure lithium resources to prepare for the era of electric vehicles,” said Heyi Xu, chairman of Beijing Automotive Group. The company, in negotiations with Chilean economic development agency Corfo, proposes industrial development that incorporates lithium mining, battery production and electric vehicle assembly in Chile.

Top Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD is speaking with Chilean lithium producers, with plans for a direct investment, an executive from the company’s regional headquarters told a local media outlet. Chinese lithium supplier Tianqi Group took a 2% stake in Chile’s SQM, one of the world’s largest producer of the light metal. Continue Reading →

Rio Tinto Isn’t Tesla; It Should Hold Fire On a Lithium Bet – by Nathaniel Taplin (Wall Street Journal – November 24, 2017)

Mining is an industry of big upfront investments and long periods of pain or gain, depending on whether the digger bets right or wrong.

It’s understandable, therefore, that Rio Tinto’s reported interest in acquiring a big stake in Chilean lithium-miner Sociedad Quimica y Minera is causing butterflies in the stomachs of some investors.

The miner’s interest in lithium makes sense strategically. Rio is more heavily dependent on iron ore than some of its competitors, and slowdown in Chinese demand seems likely. Boosting their exposure to lithium, a battery component and probable linchpin of an increasingly renewable and electric future, isn’t a bad idea. The problem is price. Continue Reading →

Latin America’s Star Pupil Needs Some New Ideas – by Mac Margolis (Bloomberg News – November 24, 2017)

The first round of Chile’s presidential elections, which saw a near shoo-in billionaire stumble, has roiled the continent’s traditional pacesetter. The day after conservative former president Sebastian Pinera garnered less than 37 percent of the vote, the stock market took a powder.

Now Pinera faces a December runoff against Alejandro Guillier, a relative political newcomer, who’s bidding to unite the bickering but surprisingly resurgent Chilean left.

Yes, Chileans seem as tired of the same old faces in politics as everyone else in Latin America does. So is the continent’s most business-friendly nation about to bank hard left? Nah. Chileans long ago eschewed ideological extremes for a dull but stabilizing centrism. What’s at stake is whether any government can shake off more than a decade of economic inertia. Continue Reading →

The whizz of Oz: Australia is the new frontier for battery minerals (The Economist – November 23, 2017)

China’s electric-vehicle industry is piling in, as are speculators

FORGET the “resource curse”. Australia is blessed with the stuff. For more than a quarter of a century it has not had a recession, thanks largely to Chinese demand for its raw materials.

It is only a few years since the end of one such China-led boom, in base metals such as iron ore. A new speculative flurry has started in minerals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel to feed another China-related craze—making batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

Ken Brinsden, an Australian mining engineer, says he pinches himself over these remarkable turns of fortune. Until 2015 he was a boss at Atlas Iron, which shipped low-grade iron ore to China. In 2011, at the height of the China-led supercycle, it had a valuation of A$3.5bn ($3.8bn). Continue Reading →

Tesla Truck Supercharges Hopes for Boom in Battery Metals Demand – by Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – November 17, 2017)

Tesla Inc.’s plans to roll out an all-electric big rig have given a fresh jolt to the outlook for battery metals that will go into powering the truck founder Elon Musk is calling “The Beast.”

Banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., UBS Group AG and Bank of America Corp. are already forecasting a surge in demand for battery metals like nickel as sales of electric cars ramp up over the next decade. Usage could jump even higher if trucking firms start switching diesel fleets for battery-powered ones.

“This is a game changer,” said Anthony Milewski, chairman and chief executive officer of Cobalt 27 Capital Corp., an investment vehicle providing price exposure to a stockpile of cobalt, which has spiked in the past year in response to booming projections for usage in electric vehicles. Continue Reading →

China is winning electric cars ‘arms race’: The global scramble for lithium – by Daniel Shane (NBC Montana – November 20, 2017)

HONG KONG (CNNMoney) – China is outmaneuvering the U.S. and other countries in the global scramble for a vital element for electric cars.

As demand for the vehicles surges, Chinese companies have been doing deals around the world to secure supplies of lithium, a silvery-white metal mined from rocks in Australia and brine pools in South America.

China is the top market for electric and hybrid cars, accounting for roughly half of global sales, and the government is pushing the development of the industry within its borders. That calls for a lot of lithium, a key component of the vehicles’ batteries. Continue Reading →

Rio Tinto’s M&A Madness – by David Fickling (Bloomberg News – November 20, 2017)

Some companies are good at takeovers. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett has used well over a hundred acquisitions over decades to help leverage $1,200 of savings from his newspaper round into one of the world’s largest business empires.

Rio Tinto Group isn’t one of those companies. Indeed, it’s hard to find an acquisition since its 2000 takeover of Australian iron ore miner North Ltd. that’s not been a top-of-the-market catastrophe.

That should make investors nervous about the prospect that a big new lithium deal could be forthcoming. Rio Tinto is working with advisers on a bid for a stake in Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA, people familiar with the matter told Jack Farchy, Dinesh Nair and Thomas Biesheuvel of Bloomberg News on Friday. Continue Reading →

Darker side of electric cars in spotlight – by Angela Jameson (The National – November 19, 2017)

While EV emissions are good news for the planet the materials used to produce them are rasing concerns

Momentum is fast building behind electric vehicles as countries round the world move to reduce use of petrol and diesel for transport. This summer France and the UK said they would ban combustion engines by 2040 and China has said it is studying such a move.

Volvo, now a Swedish-Chinese company, says every car it launches from 2019 will be either fully or partly electric. Volvo’s announcement this year was greeted as the first serious challenge to Tesla, the Californian electric car maker, from mainstream marques.

Analysts at UBS expect global sales of electric vehicles in 2025 to reach 14.2 million units, or 13.7 per cent of the total, compared with under 1 million units, or less than 1 per cent, in 2017. Continue Reading →

Argentina seeks to overtake Chile in South America lithium race – by Juliana Castilla (Reuters U.K. – November 13, 2017)

CAUCHARI OLAROZ, Argentina (Reuters) – The giant pools of turquoise water in the mountainous deserts of northwest Argentina shimmer in the sunlight like oases and for lithium miners like Australia’s Orocobre Ltd (ORE.AX), that is exactly what they are.

The mid-cap miner is one of several lithium producers stepping up investment in Argentina amid expectations President Mauricio Macri’s business-friendly agenda will transform the country into South America’s top producer of the mineral, ousting neighbouring Chile in five years’ time.

Demand for lithium carbonate, which miners extract from the brine in these pools on the Atacama Plateau, is forecast to boom as production of electric cars rises. Lithium is a key ingredient for the vehicles’ rechargable batteries, allowing them to retain energy far longer, and its price has soared more than 30 percent to a record $12,000 a tonne this year. Continue Reading →