Mitsubishi Corp. is looking to develop a lithium project in
Chile to power its new fleet of Mitsubishi innovative Electric
Vehicles (i-MiEV), according to newspapers in the South
El Mercurio reported that
the Japanese group intends to manufacture 20,000 units of
i-MIEV in 2011 and plans to further this to 50,000 units per
According to the Santiago
Times, president of Mitsubishi Chile, Masaji Santo, said:
Lithium is the heart of the electric car and we want to
develop our own source for the mineral.
He reportedly said Mitsubishi would
be entering discussions with the Chilean government on removing
an existing ban on new lithium projects.
At present, Mitsubishi buys lithium
from SQM, the worlds largest producer, which extracts
lithium solutions from the Salar de Atacama in the north of
Commenting on the development,
Daniela Desormeaux of Chile-based consultancy SignumBOX, told
IM: We estimate that the lithium-ion
battery pack that powers the Mitsubishi i-MiEV requires 14kg of
lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), so 20,000 units would
require 288 tonnes of LCE and 50,000 units would require 720
tonnes of LCE.
Mitsubishi has also signed an
off-take agreement with Lithium Americas, a Canadian junior
that is developing a lithium project in the Salar de Cauchari
in Argentina - a 40,000 tpa lithium carbonate production
facility built in two phases.
The construction of the first
20,000 tpa phase is expected to start in 2012 and the second is
expected to begin in 2016, with the capital costs for both
phases estimated to total $399m.
Chile mining ban removal?
Desormeaux argued that given the huge global availability of
lithium, Mitsubishi must be on the cusp of agreeing the removal
of Chilean mining ban if it is considering developing a project
Current regulation does not
allow the exploitation of lithium, since lithium is considered
as a strategic mineral by Chilean law...The Chilean
government has expressed interest in changing this regulation
since it has realised that if they do nothing the country will
lose its leadership in the industry, Desormeaux said.
If Mitsubishi is interested
in getting involved in the lithium business in Chile it is
probably because the company expects that this ban will be
removed soon and also because it wants to secure its own supply
of lithium, despite the existence of several players in the
industry, Desormeaux said.
Desormeaux emphasised that global
lithium reserves are abundant, with over 80 projects announced
in the past few years, and many current producers have the
potential to increase capacity
Mitsubishi is not alone in eyeing
Chile as a source of lithium. Korea Resources Corp. (Kores) and
Samsung C&T Corp. have earmarked a joint investment of
$190m. in the NX Uno project, in south-west the Salar de
Atacama, to secure raw materials for future battery production
in South Korea.
Canada Lithium on track
Canada Lithium expects to start construction at its project in
Quebec in the third quarter of 2011 after completing an update
to its disputed feasibility study.
The company commissioned AMC Mining
Consultants to produce an independent study of the deposit
after a disparity was found in its initial resource
The updated resource estimate shows
a total measured and inferred resource of 29.3m. tonnes at
1.19% lithium oxide, compared with the 46.7m. tonnes at 1.19%
figure released in 2010.
Canada Lithium said the resource
downgrade would not impact the plan to develop a 20,000 tpa
capacity lithium carbonate project, with a mine life of just
under 15 years.
Design specifications were expected
to be finalised by the end of June before the company places
orders for long-lead equipment. Plant commissioning has been
targeted for Q4 2012.
Lithium prices to rise
Chemetall plans to hike the prices of its lithium products by
20% to bring the market back to pre-recession levels, the
lithium producers parent company Rockwood Holdings
The company, which operates plants
Chile and the USA, raised prices of lithium carbonate, lithium
hydroxide, lithium chloride and battery-grade lithium metal
from 1 July 2011.
Chemetall said the price increases
would recover increased costs for energy, raw materials,
solvents and transport.
With this increase we will
return prices of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide to the
levels of 2008, said Steffen Haber, president of
In addition, higher prices
will help to support our efforts to increase our global
production capacities, he added.
Prices for standard battery grade
lithium carbonate have been assessed in a range of
$4,500-5,000/tonne, FOB South America, for the first half of
At the same time, lithium hydroxide
(56.5-57.5% LiOH, large contracts, packed in drums or bags, del
Europe or USA) is trading at around $6-6.60/kg.
Chemetall has capacities of about
33,000 tpa lithium carbonate and 5,000 tpa lithium hydroxide,
which it plans to expand to 50,000 tpa and 15,000 tpa
respectively by 2020.
Headquartered in Germany, the group
is the worlds second largest producer of lithium
carbonate after Chiles SQM.