Lithium expert dismisses oversupply forecasts

The possibility of an oversupply of lithium chemical is a myth, the president of California-based Global Lithium, Joe Lowry, said this week.

Addressing the audience at the conference Paydirt 2019 Latin America Downunder, Lowry blamed the spread of such a 'myth’ on ‘big bank’ analysts and the Chilean regulator CORFO.

In Lowry's view, there have been misunderstandings regarding CORFO's reports related to its revised agreements allowing Albemarle and SQM to produce more material from the Atacama brine resource.

"The reality is increasing production quickly is not so easy,” he said.

Global Lithium predicts that the industry will need to inject $12 billion within five years to have a chance of meeting demand.

The executive predicts that the ‘Big Four’ global lithium producers, SQM, Albemarle, Ganfeng and Tianqi, would not be able to meet the lithium demand forecasted for 2025 on their own.

“Overall, the industry faces a lack of financing and needs to inject more than $12 billion within five years to have a chance of meeting demand,” he said. “This requirement is exacerbated further by known and emerging failures in lithium start-ups which have demonstrated a lack of necessary skillsets – high profile failures that have discouraged sector investment."

On the issue of source, the Global Lithium executive called for a more balanced debate, saying analysts’ predictions of the dominance of hard rock lithium were both incorrect and incomplete.

"Neither lithium source – hard rock or brine – will dominate the future,” Lowry told those gathered in Perth, Western Australia. “It will be cathode selection decisions that will drive product choice. Any price issue will be defined more by the actual production cost curve at the time – but expect prices to be much firmer going forward.”

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Mineral Resources inks $1.15B lithium JV deal with Albemarle

Australian miner and infrastructure supplier Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) signed Friday a binding deal to sell a stake in its Wodgina Lithium Project and form a joint venture with US-based battery metals giant Albemarle for $1.15 billion.

The agreement gives Albemarle a 50% interest in all mineral rights within the Wodgina tenements, other than iron-ore, which MRL will retain, and tantalum, which is held by Global Advanced Metals Greenbushes.

Move seems to indicate that Albemarle is favouring hard-rock lithium in Western Australia over lithium brine production in South America.

The joint venture will allow the American lithium producer, the world’s No. 1, to expand its presence in Australia.

The move seems to indicate that Albemarle is favouring hard-rock lithium in Western Australia over lithium brine production in South America. This as the company is also a joint venture partner to China’s Tianqi Lithium to develop the Greenbushes mine and processing plant in Western Australia.

Albemarle not only will own and operate the Wodgina mine, but it will also develop a plant producing lithium hydroxide, about 100 kilometres from Port Hedland in Western Australia's iron ore heartland.

After construction and ramp-up of the concentration plant, the joint venture is expected to produce up to 750,000 tonnes a year of 6% spodumene concentrate.

The sale of the half Wodgina comes two years after MinRes bought it from Global Advanced Metals.

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