Lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) import and export volumes in China
dropped in July as the average value of the goods remained
firm, the latest China custom data shows.
Recent supply issues of this battery mineral in Latin
America has affected deliveries to China, which is reflected in
Chinese lithium carbonate import volumes plunged 34%
month-on-month to 1,954 tonnes in July, down from 2,978 tonnes
Meanwhile, the export volumes have also dropped by 28% to 104
tonnes in July, down from 144 tonnes in June.
China remains a net importer of lithium compounds, while the
value of the country’s exported material exceeded
the value of imported material on a per unit basis, as
indicated in the graph below.
Between June and July, the average imported value of lithium
carbonate has remained steady between
Whereas the average export value of the same mineral during
the same period has increased by 10% month-on-month to
$18,823/tonne in July, up from $17,160/tonne in June.
China remains a major exporter of lithium hydroxide (LiOH),
as this is the preferred lithium compound used by cathode
In the absence of any supply disruption, Chinese exports of
hydroxide rose by 62% to 1,808 tonnes in July, up from 1,118
tonnes in June.
The average value per tonne for the period has seen an
uptick of 4.9% to $12,532/tonne in July, up from $11,949/tonne
in the previous month.
IM Chinese lithium prices
Lithium carbonate supply tightness combined with high demand
has eroded the historic price differential between lithium
carbonate and hydroxide prices, as hydroxide generally trades
above carbonate. Instead, prices are overlapping between both
grades in the Chinese domestic market.
According to IM’s market
assessment on 7 September, Chinese domestic lithium carbonate
(min 99.0-99.5 Li2CO3) spot prices increased to a range of
$18.7-24.5/kg from $18.3-23.6/kg previously.
Whereas the Chinese domestic lithium hydroxide (56.5-57.5%
LiOH2O) spot prices rose slightly to $21.7-24.5/kg 7 September
from $21.2-24.2/kg previously.
Editor's note: This
article was edited on 8 November 2017 to correctly state that
China is a major 'exporter' of hydroxide. China's exports of
hydroxide rose in July.