Australia’s lithium miners bank on brighter times ahead as prices soar

Australian-listed lithium miners are preparing for better times ahead, filings showed this week, as they outlined expansion plans in the wake of soaring prices for the raw material used in electric vehicle batteries.

Mineral Resources Ltd, Orocobre Ltd and Galaxy Resources filed reports that pointed to a rebound in lithium demand, through better sales and building out new projects, flagging upbeat earnings as the reporting season begins next week.

The reports suggest that stimulus measures to combat the economic effects of covid-19 are feeding through to the real economy and to electric vehicle sales.

China, the world’s biggest producer of battery chemicals, reported a sharp jump in economic growth in the first quarter, propelled by stronger demand at home and abroad and continued government support for smaller firms.

Mineral Resources said on Friday its lithium hydroxide plant in Western Australia was on track for commissioning in the second half of the year. It holds 40% of the joint venture with Albermarle Corp.

Orocobre had said on Wednesday that production of lithium carbonate from its Olaroz lithium operations in Argentina is sold out until the end of June 2022, although more will be available in the second half of the year as an expansion comes on line.

Galaxy Resources on Wednesday detailed plans to produce lithium carbonate at its Sal de Vida project in Argentina and updated investors on the amount of lithium reserves it has.

It plans to produce 10,700 tonnes per year of battery-grade lithium carbonate from late 2022, at an estimated capital cost of $153 million.

The expansion progress comes as prices for lithium carbonate have surged by nearly 140 percent over the past six months, half of that coming this year.

In Australia, prices of hard rock lithium (spodumene) lagged in the recovery, but have rallied by 50% since the start of March to $640 from as low as $380 late last year.

(By Melanie Burton; Editing by David Holmes)


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