An Australian company on track to become Europe’s first lithium producer said China’s appetite for the material, which is key to the renewable-energy transition, has created a clear runway for further expansion in the continent.
“A lot of supply is going into China, and China’s own needs are growing,” Critical Metals Corp. Executive Chairman Tony Sage said in a Bloomberg Television interview from Perth on Wednesday. The Asian nation’s domination of the market means “there are another four or five players in Europe also hoping to get into production” and “we are going to be the first,” he said.
Sage was speaking a day after the unit of Australian miner European Lithium Ltd. agreed to go public on Nasdaq through a merger with blank-check company Sizzle Acquisition Corp. The combined entity — Critical Metals — will own European Lithium’s project in Wolfsberg, Austria.
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Critical Metals is attempting to cash in on soaring demand for lithium, with prices soaring this year as global demand for the key battery ingredient booms while supply remains constrained. The US has urged allies to diversify supply due to concerns over China’s domination of refining and production capacity for key materials including lithium, rare earths and cobalt.
“Look at rare earths — when China needs them for themselves, they stop the exports,” Sage said. “That’s why Europe makes lithium a critical mineral, for the purpose is to break that sort of reliance on China to produce the concentrate for the batteries.”
Critical Metals was eying other lithium deposits in Europe for potential expansion, Sage said. At this stage, he didn’t see any big projects adding enough output to halt steep price rises for the material, he said.
Chile’s constitutional assembly voted down plans in May to nationalize mining rights for lithium. Still, the prospect — along with environmental concerns about brine extraction — may subdue a rush for supply from that region, Sage said.
European Lithium in August announced an agreement with BMW AG to supply battery-grade lithium hydroxide. The firm hopes to add consumers including electric-vehicle and battery manufacturers in the region, and expects Wolfsberg to supply approximately 10,500 metric tons of lithium concentrate annually by 2025.
(By Annie Lee and Harry Brumpton, with assistance from Shery Ahn and Haidi Lun)