BHP vows to stay out of lithium rush with shortages set to fade

The Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia hosts one of the world’s largest pools of brine-rich in lithium. (Reference image by Dan Lundberg, Flickr).

Among elevated metal prices, lithium stands out, as booming electric-vehicle sales send the battery component skyrocketing. Conspicuously, the world’s biggest mining company has no plans to join the rush.

For BHP Group, the frenzied talk about looming lithium shortages in a clean-energy transition will fade given it’s one of the more abundant elements in nature. Ironically, given the silvery-white metal’s role in helping replace fossil fuels, there are also environmental reasons behind BHP’s lack of interest.   

While lithium mining is “definitely within our skillset,” BHP prefers its projects large, long-life and scalable in commodities with differentiated cost curves, said the company’s Minerals Americas head. The fact that low-cost lithium deposits tend to come from brine in places like Chile and Argentina is another deterrent for the Melbourne-based miner, which has committed to minimizing use of continental water in drought-hit Chile.

“We recognize that at the moment there’s short-term supply-demand conversations,” Ragnar Udd said in an interview this week. “How that plays out over the next 20 or 30 years, I don’t think it will last.”

(By James Attwood)

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