BATTERY MATERIALS CONF: SQM will retain its lithium market share, Jimenez says
Published: Thursday, 19 April 2018
Lithium producer SQM is confident it will retain its market share amid forecasts of global supply growth, while cautioning of the industry's poor track record on delivering lithium projects.
SQM plans to keep its 25% share of the global lithium
market, senior commercial vice president Daniel Jimenez told
delegates at Industrial Minerals' and Metal Bulletin's
inaugural Battery Materials conference in Shanghai on Wednesday
The Chilean producer is confident it will not lose market
share even as supply grows to meet mounting demand from car
manufacturers for electric vehicles (EVs).
Growing demand from the lithium-ion battery sector has led
SQM to plan for rapid growth, with targeted lithium carbonate
production capacity of 70,000 tonnes per year by 2018 and
100,000 tpy by 2019, up from 48,000 tpy currently.
Hydroxide production capacity, meanwhile, will rise to
13,500 tpy this year, from 6,000 tpy at present.
"Growing lithium demand triggered by the battery sector
could reach levels of 600,000-800,000 tpy of lithium
carbonate equivalent (LCE) within the next 10 years," Jimenez
said. "This means the lithium industry would require an
investment of $10-12 billion to fulfill the booming
Although SQM has been authorized by the Chilean Economic
Development Agency (Corfo) to reach a total production of
216,000 tpy of LCE by 2025, the company has not confirmed
whether or not it plans to increase its total production to
these levels. But the company admits that it is monitoring
the Li-ion batteries sector closely so that it can
position itself to meet global lithium demand.
Many existing and junior companies have announced plans to
bring new lithium supply online following the sharp rises in
lithium demand and prices over the past three years .
But not everyone is confident that all of the forecast supply
will come to fruition.
According to Jimenez, the lithium industry has a poor track
record for delivering lithium projects on time and timescales
for when supply will meet demand remains uncertain because
historically supply has been overestimated.
"The lithium supply took 10 years to double, meanwhile,
demand is anticipated to double over the next five years and
to double again five years after," Jimenez said during the
Increasing in production capacity comes at a time when the
cost of lithium production is currently significantly lower
than the market price.
Industrial Minerals' spot lithium carbonate battery grade
price, ex-works China, was assessed at 145,000-150,000 yuan
($23,093-23,890) per tonne on Thursday April 12. This compares
with production costs of the legacy brine producers, such as
SQM, of under $5,000 per tonne.