Surging lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices in China took a breather in April, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, but for chemical processors and battery manufacturers struggling to deal with prices doubling so far in 2022 the lull is unlikely to last.
The mid-April assessment by the London-HQed battery supply chain researcher and price reporting agency shows battery grade lithium carbonate (EXW China, ≥99.5% Li2CO3) down just under 1% over two weeks, but still within shouting distance of $80,000 a tonne. In April last year it was trading around $15,000.
Prices for lithium hydroxide, used in batteries with high-nickel cathodes, continued to rise in the first half of April. Hydroxide historically trades at a premium to carbonate and has been playing catch up – the gap is now down to around $400 a tonne, from a nearly $10,000 discount in February.
Benchmark says the slight downtrend in carbonate pricing “was not indicative of a wider market correction, but rather a temporary pause as a result of covid lockdowns in China, with expectations that prices will continue to increase in May if virus measures are eased.”