Japanese manufacturer Panasonic is willing to make multi-year
commitments to secure deliveries of lithium, company vice
president Masaharu Nagata said at Industrial
Minerals’ 10th Lithium Supply & Markets
(LSM) conference in Las Vegas, United States, on June
Consistency in lithium battery-grade compounds quality is
also an important requirement, Nagata said, adding that the
company is ready to support producers to achieve good quality
battery-grade compounds by providing them with knowhow.
Following the rapid growth in battery demand since the end
of 2015, spot lithium prices have been a much-debated topic.
Meanwhile, the shortening of long-term contract periods to only
one year from the former 5-7 years has been a major talking
point among market participants.
The higher prices paid by the likes of Panasonic for
battery-grade lithium compounds, compared with before the
battery boom, have led the company to seek long-term
partnerships with different producers to negotiate fair prices
that will still be beneficial for both parties, Nagata told
High spot prices in the Chinese market over the past two
years remain the main price driver for new contracts signed
between lithium producers and consumers.
Contract prices for lithium carbonate, battery-grade, min
99.5%, on a cif Asia basis, increased by 208% to an average of
$17.75 per kg in June 2018 from $5.75 per kg in June 2015,
according to Industrial Minerals data.
Meanwhile, contract prices for battery-grade lithium
hydroxide, min 56.5%, cif China, Japan and South Korea,
remained at historic highs of $18-21 per kg in June 2018, up
from less than $10 per kg at the end of 2015.
Panasonic will also be looking to increase its battery-grade
lithium hydroxide usage in its nickel, cobalt, aluminium (NCA)
and nickel, cobalt, manganese (NCM) battery cathodes, Nagata
said at the conference.
The supply of cobalt remains a concern for Panasonic due to
high prices and worries over the mining of the mineral in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the source of more than
half of global production.
Metal Bulletin’s low-grade cobalt prices
increased to $39.70-41 per lb on June 29, 2018, from
$10.20-11.20 per lb on February 8, 2016.
Nagata said that the company would reduce the amount of
cobalt used in its battery cathodes by "as much as [it] could,"
but did not give specific details.