Mine auction draws 3,448 bids amid scramble for lithium

Yajiang county, Sichuan province, China. Credit: Chinaculture.org

An auction for a controlling stake in a Chinese lithium mine has garnered 3,448 bids, underscoring the scramble to secure the battery metal that’s key to the clean-energy transition.

The 54.3% stake in Yajiang Snowway Mining Development, which owns the mine in Sichuan, a southwestern province in China, was sold for about 2 billion yuan ($299 million), according to the JD.com’s judicial auction platform. That’s nearly 600 times higher than the starting price of about 3.35 million yuan. Details of the winning bidder weren’t immediately available.

The heated bidding war, which concluded on Saturday, was joined by 21 participants, while over 980,000 people watched online throughout the five-day event.

“We believe the auction price indicates a bullish Chinese primary market for future lithium prices as well as the strategic importance of Sichuan spodumene assets,” Daiwa Capital Markets’ analysts Dennis Ip and Leo Ho said in a note.

The shift to electric vehicles has spurred a global rush for lithium, which is used in virtually all EV batteries, and seen Chinese prices of lithium carbonate surge more than 400% over the past year. The highest bid in a tender in April by Australia’s Pilbara Minerals Ltd. for spodumene concentrate, a partly-processed form of lithium, more than doubled in just six months.

Yajiang Snowway is undergoing a bankruptcy process. The Dechenonba lithium mine in Sichuan’s Yajiang area covers 1.14 square kilometers, with estimated reserves of 24.9 million tons and a planned 1-million-ton capacity per year.

(By Annie Lee)

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