China’s NDRC approves Ganfeng’s majority stake in Argentina lithium project

China’s Ganfeng Lithium has received regulatory approval from the country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDCR) to increase its stake in the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium project - a joint venture with Lithium Americas - in northern Argentina to 51%.

Ganfeng Lithium is awaiting other regulatory approvals from the People’s Republic of China to finalize the transaction, including from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, Lithium Americas said in a press release published on Tuesday June 23.

In February, Ganfeng Lithium agreed to pay $16 million to raise its ownership in the project by 1% by buying new shares from Minera Exar, the jointly owned holding company for the project.

At the time, it also agreed to provide non-interest-bearing loans of $40 million to Exar Capital, repayable in 2029, although subject to an additional one-year extension. The proceeds will be used to repay intercompany loans to Lithium Americas.

Ganfeng’s purchase of the additional stake will reduce Lithium Americas’ share in Caucharí-Olaroz to 49%.

In April 2019, the Chinese company invested $160 million in the project by buying an earlier issue of shares that raised its holding to 50% from 37.5%.

The Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project is currently under construction and is expected to be complete by mid-2021.

China’s lithium market came under increased pressure this past week amid ongoing weak downstream demand, prompting producers to lower prices to boost sales.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price range, exw domestic China was at 39,000-42,000 yuan per tonne ($5,502-5,925) on June 18, down by 2.4% from 40,000-43,000 yuan per tonne the previous week and a decline of 15.6% from 45,000-51,000 yuan per tonne at the start of this year.

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