Sichuan Yahua Industrial Group, one of China’s largest lithium hydroxide and carbonate producers, is injecting further funds into emerging Australian lithium producer Core Exploration (ASX:CXO) as Chinese companies continue to aggressively try securing supply of the key ingredient needed for making the batteries that power electric cars.
Through its subsidiary Yahua International, Sichuan has given Core Exploration $1.4 million as share placement, on top of a $2 million cash injection it provided it in August last year.
With demand for EVs set to skyrocket in the next decade, Chinese companies have inked several deals in the past year to secure steady lithium supplies with mine developers in Australia, South America, Canada and Africa.
The placement is valued at 5.3c per share, Core said in the statement, adding that the fund will be used to expand its regional exploration and resource focussed drilling within the Finniss lithium project near Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Sichuan Yahua existing operations includes a 12,000tpa lithium hydroxide refinery and a 6,000tpa lithium carbonate refinery, and it has plans to expand its production to 50,000tpa of lithium salt production. As a major supplier of lithium salts in China, Yahua Group has long term stable relationships with a number of the large downstream customers of lithium batteries and has broad marketing and distribution channels.
The group has other business interesting in Australia, including operations in Darwin, where it manufactures explosives for industrial use.
China has emerged as the leading market player for electric and hybrid cars, accounting for approximately half of global sales.
As demand for electric vehicles is set to skyrocket in the next five to ten years, the world’s second-largest economy has been working on secure steady lithium supplies, with local companies inking several deals with mine developers in Australia, Canada and Africa in the past year.
Chinese companies, however, have not been that lucky in South America, particularly in Chile, where Tianqi’s move to get a coveted 32% stake in Chile’s Chemical and Mining Society (SQM), the world’s lowest cost producer, was stopped in its tracks by authorities.
Western companies have yet to show the same levels of interest in lithium supplies compared to their Chinese counterparts, analysts said.
Like Beijing, North America and Europe also have limited lithium resources of their own and rely on imports from elsewhere, but they haven’t got around Chinese domination of the market just yet.
Europe uses about 25% of the world’s lithium and local automakers predict a surge in electric vehicles production as the continent shifts away from gasoline-powered cars.
In North America, miners are exploring for untapped lithium deposits that could rival the big finds in South America and Australia, with Canadian companies including Quantum Minerals (TSX-V: QMC) and Nemaska Lithium (TSX: NMX) leading the way.