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Lithium

Latest News

  • Lithium market report 10-24 April

    Monday, 24 April 2017

    The lithium market across the three major regional markets - the US, Europe and China - has been relatively stable in April so far, supported by continuous growth in the Chinese battery sector.

  • Lithium Juniors News Brief 11-18 April

    Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    A roundup of notable junior activity in the lithium industry.

  • Battery Show Europe 2017: Europe must play bigger role in battery industry

    Monday, 10 April 2017

    Delegates at European battery show in Germany last week forecast a promising future for the European battery industry as they tackled topics ranging from the European SET-Plan, growth opportunities, market forecasts, second life batteries, recycling and alternative type of batteries.

  • Bacanora, Hanwa agree off-take, investment deal

    Monday, 10 April 2017

    Bacanora Minerals has entered into a strategic partnership with Japan-based Hanwa Co. which will see the global trading company take an stake in the Canadia junior and an offtake for its battery grade lithium carbonate.

More from Latest News

Pricing News

  • Lithium market report 10-24 April

    Monday, 24 April 2017

    The lithium market across the three major regional markets - the US, Europe and China - has been relatively stable in April so far, supported by continuous growth in the Chinese battery sector.

  • Price briefing 17-23 March

    Friday, 24 March 2017

    Lithium prices unchanged; brown fused alumina spreads widen; fluorspar continues to climb; antimony trioxide stable; chromite stand-off continues

  • Business as usual in the global lithium market

    Thursday, 23 March 2017

    The lithium market remained stable over the past week with participants reporting "very good levels" of activity in the China spot market amid slightly quieter trading in the US and Europe.

  • Prices

    Thursday, 15 December 2016

    Antimony trioxide prices drop, as do iodine prices; lithium deals for 2017 approach closure; foundry chromite spot market widens; raw material costs lift WFA prices; graphite suppliers talk 2017 contracts; Cristal to increase TiO2 prices; industry concerned over China scrapping magnesia quota.

More from Pricing News

Features

  • Charging forward

    Thursday, 23 February 2017

    Two months after the production cogs began to churn out battery cells at Tesla’s ‘Gigafactory’, Myles McCormick, Reporter, investigates the arrival of lithium-ion battery megafactories, the hurdles they face and their significance for raw material demand.

  • Solid state batteries: The next evolution in Li-ion technology?

    Thursday, 23 February 2017

    Lithium-ion batteries have been plugged as the enablers of countless next generation electronic devices, but there remain kinks in the technology that engineers are struggling to iron out. Rose Pengelly, IM Correspondent, spoke to high-tech materials developer Ilika about how solid state designs may provide some of the answers battery users are looking for.

  • Junior mining: Back from the brink?

    Thursday, 26 January 2017

    Half a decade on from the collapse of the global mining boom, a rally in commodity markets last year caught many investors off guard and has created a weak but welcome tailwind for the stalled exploration industry, Rose Pengelly, IM Correspondent, finds.

  • 2016 Year in Review

    Thursday, 15 December 2016

    A round up of the year's main events in major global industrial minerals markets such as lithium, agriminerals, rare earths and titanium dioxide.

More from Features

Market Brief

Lithium is the lightest known metal but its consumption in the form of non-metallic products like lithium carbonate, chloride and hydroxide are core to a number of end markets such as batteries, ceramics, glass and industrial grease.

Over the last three years, lithium has come to the attention of the mainstream media and financial institutions owing to is critical role in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries – the batteries that have been chosen to power the next generation of electric vehicles.

Lithium carbonate is the key raw material for battery manufacturing and the production of which has been the focus of a flood of explorers that have come onto the scene in recent years.

It is produced from continental brines predominately in South America, and the hard rock minerals pegmatite and spodumene mainly in Australia.

There are two very different ways of extracting lithium

1. Brine is pumped from subsurface reservoirs to surface ponds. The power of the sun evaporates excess water and concentrates the mineral content of the brine. Once the lithium content reaches 6%, the liquor is removed and processed into lithium chemicals.

2. Hard rock is mining in the more traditional sense. Spodumene is mined and crushed to form a concentrate. This mineral concentrate is then sold to chemical companies which use the feedstock to produce lithium chemicals or to glass and ceramics producers which use it as an additive.


At present, no hard rock lithium miner produces downstream chemicals.

Other sources of lithium being developed or explored are: hectorite (clay), jadarite, geothermal brine, oilfield brine, seawater.

Supply

Global lithium reserves in 2012: 13m tonnes

The identified lithium resources total 5.5m tonnes in the US and approximately 34m tonnes in other countries, the USGS said in its 2013 commodity summary. Bolivia and Chile resources total 9m tonnes and in excess of 7.5m tonnes, respectively.

Identified lithium resources for Argentina, China, and Australia are 6.5m tonnes, 5.4m tonnes, and 1.7m tonnes, respectively; while Canada, Congo (Kinshasa), Russia, and Serbia contain approximately a million tonnes each, the USGS SAID. Identified lithium resources for Brazil total 180,000 tonnes.

Major producers:
SQM, Rockwood, FMC Corp., Talison Minerals

The vast majority of brine lithium is sourced from the Salar de Atacama in Chile. The driest place on earth not only hosts rich lithium reserves but has the most optimum natural evaporation conditions to process it.

This is where SQM and Rockwood have the world’s leading operations by volume.

The Salar de Hombre Muerto in Argentina is the second largest source through FMC’s brine operation.

Smaller brine operations include: Silver Peak in Nevada, USA (Chemetall-owned); Qinghai province, China; and Salar de Rincon, Argentina (Rincon Lithium Ltd).


Australia’s Talison Lithium is the leading miner of hard rock lithium minerals. The company produces 280,000 tpa of lithium concentrates for customers predominately in China. In 2012 Rockwood initiated a takeover bid for the company, but it eventually
lost out to China’s Chengdu Tianqi Industry (Group) Co., Ltd.

Another source of lithium through the mining of petalite is Bikita Minerals in Zimbabwe. Although production has waned to under 4,000 tpa of concentrates in recent years, the company still has customers in the ceramic and glass industries.

The recent surge of electric car plans from the world’s auto-makers has seen a glut of lithium explorers search for viable sources of lithium and these included some never-before exploited forms of the mineral.

Hectorite, a clay, was being developed by Western Lithium in Nevada, US at the Kings Valley Project for future production of lithium carbonate. But the company decided in 2012 to instead target the oilfields markets and market hectorite as an organoclay or gel.

Rio Tinto Plc uncovered an entirely new mineral, jadarite, in its search for lithium and boron in Serbia. Jadarite hit the headlines after it was discovered to be an exact chemical match to the fictional kryptonite from the Superman series.

Meanwhile, Simbol Mining Corp. is looking to bypass the need for solar evaporation and tap into the waste streams from a geothermal plant at the Salton Sea, California, US. The company is developing a unique processing method (reverse osmosis) to filter out sought-after minerals from the brine, including lithium.

In South Korea, steel company Posco is exploring the possibility of extracting lithium from seawater. While it has its work cut out, considering seawater is by far the lowest concentrations of lithium, it is a process that has been cracked for extraction of magnesia by a number of magnesia producers, including Posco.

Markets

Battery applications are expected to be the growth driver for lithium in the foreseeable future. Electric vehicle developments will head this growth underpinned by consumption of portable electronics, like tablets, and power tools – the vast majority of which use lithium-ion technology.

Ceramics and glass demand share proportionately will fall owing to the rise in battery sector consumption, but will continue to require concentrates, especially in Asia where the industry is seeing rapid growth.

Industrial applications like lithium’s use in grease (predominately hydroxide), aluminium and continuous castings will continue to underpin the industry and fluctuate in line with global industrial activity.