Tianqi could ramp up mine output to meet lithium target

By Albert Li
Published: Friday, 22 September 2017

In order to ensure sufficient raw material supply to meet its 100,000tpa lithium chemical production target, Chinese producer Tianqi could further increase spodumene output at its joint-venture Australian mine or speed up production at its new Sichuan project.

Chinese producer Tianqi Lithium Corp could ramp up spodumene production at joint-venture Talison Lithium Ltd and speed up progress of its Sichuan project in order to meet internal raw material demand.

During a question and answer session in mid August, investors questioned Tianqi on the supply gap as the lithium concentrate output at Talison mine in Australia as still insufficient to meet Tianqi’s demand.  

Talison - a JV between Albermarle Corp and Tianqi - has been expanding its lithium concentrate production at its Greenbushes spodumene mine in Australia. The 1.34m tpa spodumene ramp-up at Talison was scheduled to be completed in Q2 2019.

The planned expansion at Talison would help to ensure raw material supply could meet Tianqi’s lithium chemical production target of 100,000tpa by 2020, the producer said.

There is also a chance for further expansion in the future due to the huge 80m tonnes reserves at the company’s Australian Greenbushes mine site, Tianqi said.

The other source of supply would be from the spodumene project in Sichuan province. 

Although the progress of the construction has been slow, the process could accelerate as Tianqi is constantly communicating with the local government, it said..

Tianqi Lithium Corp. produces lithium carbonate 
from spodumene from its own mines. 
Huaxi News 

Production cost stable

Tianqi said that although it can control the cost of producing lithium carbonate up to a point, due to the fact it supplies the input material (spodumene), the cost of production can still fluctuate. This is because of changes in energy  prices and hikes in the cost of other input materials - such as sulphuric acid and alkali.

Indeed, the operating cost increased in H1 2017, mainly because Tianqi’s output and sales have both expanded during the period.

Lithium carbonate price trend

Tianqi said that while "price fluctuation is normal", as it is determined by the market, prices were unlikely to fall back to levels seen before battery demand boom. The high raw material cost would support carbonate prices, it added, as evidenced in newly-operated projects.