Lithium mine output to treble over next four years amid battery demand – GlobalData

High growth in demand for lithium batteries is spurring a three-fold growth in mine production of the material over the next four years, according to analytics firm GlobalData.

According to the company, 86,000 tonnes of new lithium metal capacity is slated to come on stream, tapping into the push toward the electrification of mobility, and in particular, growth in the development of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

“After moderate growth in lithium supply between 2010 and 2017 of 6.4% per year, global output is expected to triple between 2018 and 2022 to reach 154,000 tonnes (metal content), as 86,000 tonnes of new metal capacity comes on stream to meet the increasing demand for the metal for use in batteries in electric vehicles and smartphones,” Sameer Chakravarthy, mining analyst at GlobalData, said.

Currently, most of the global lithium supply comes from Australia with production of 18,300 tonnes per year, followed by Chile and Argentina with 14,100 tpy and 5,500 tpy respectively.

Among the largest global producers are Chile’s SQM, which is market leader with a 25% share of global production, followed by Perth, Australia-headquartered Talison with 24%, and US producers Albemarle with 17% and FMC with 9%.

Over the next four years, Australia will account for the largest share of the additional capacity with 37%, with mine openings at Pilgangoora, Wodgina, Bald Hill and Mt Holland. It will be followed by Argentina with 29%, Canada with 16%, Chile with 9%, the US with 6%, and Mexico with 4%.

Lithium prices more than doubled from mid-2015 through to the end of 2017, but have slipped steadily lower through 2018 amid a deceleration in the consumption of lithium compounds in China and the availability of cheaper material that can be modified for battery use.

Metal Bulletin assessed lithium carbonate battery-grade spot prices on August 17 at 90,000-95,000 yuan ($13,088-13,815) per tonne, ex-works China, from 94,000-100,000 yuan per tonne the week before and a peak of 160,000-165,000 yuan ($23,2680-23,995) in January.

Metal Bulletin has identified four battery-grade lithium prices as being key to this market. Access them via the free weekly service, Lithium Price Spotlight.
Learn more about Metal Bulletin’s
lithium pricing methodology here.

All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker. Get a sample of the report here.