Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The rush for lithium is just beginning

From Mineweb:

With the anticipated huge growth in hybrid electric vehicles among others demand for lithium is expected to skyrocket.

Dan Gleeson writes in International Mining's September Leader on the growing importance of and interest in lithium, and, by association, Bolivia. In his latest newsletter, A Buck or Two, Tjalling (TJ) de Jong also reports on the different lithium plays. TJ writes, "A small number of countries produce lithium from either brines or concentrates, Chile being the largest producer. Argentina, Chile and Australia together accounted for about 82% of the total lithium production in 2008. Supply of lithium is dominated by production of lithium from brines SQM FMC lithium and Chemetall and the sole mineral producer Talison Minerals of Australia. China has been ramping up production since 2000 but as of 2008 supplies 8% to the lithium market." In just the past week alone we have heard from five lithium explorers.

The majority of known resources are in the Bolivian Altiplano which is thought to host around 50% of global lithium resources; yet the country is unwilling to give up this land without ensuring that it profits from it. President Evo Morales has already nationalised the country's oil and natural gas sectors and is being very protective over this valuable lithium resource - see: Bolivian Govt aims to become global kingpin of lithium

The main uses for lithium have been batteries, ceramics and lubricating greases. Demand is expected to grow significantly as auto makers begin to produce hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and electric vehicles (EV). TJ says "Lithium Ion Batteries are the preferred method for electrifying these vehicles. World production has come from 13,000 t to about 22,800 t lithium in 2008." Japan, Korea and China already have national Lithium Ion Battery technology development programs. When David Pescod of Canaccord Capital touched base with TJ, and asked for some stock picks, he said he prefers the plays that are based on brine because of their huge cost advantage.

Galaxy Resources has signed agreements for financing of its lithium project with China's Creat Group, raising at least A$26 million for the company. In addition, Creat will provide Galaxy with 100% debt finance of around A$130 million for the purpose of developing both the Mt Cattlin spodumene (lithium/tantalum) and Jiangsu lithium carbonate projects.

Managing Director, Iggy Tan said "this deal provides us with a bedrock Chinese shareholder and enables us to move ahead with the development of both the Mt Cattlin spodumene and Jiangsu lithium carbonate projects."

Galaxy has completed a definitive feasibility study that suggests Mt Cattlin (Ravensthorpe, Western Australia) is commercially viable based on a processing rate of 1 Mt/y over a 15 year mine life. The company is planning to commence the development of the mine and the construction of the mineral processing plant in Q3, 2009 with first concentrate production scheduled for Q3, 2010.

The company has also commenced a prefeasibility study into the value adding downstream production of lithium carbonate (Li2CO3). Galaxy plans to establish a 17,000 t/y lithium carbonate plant in China due to lower associated capital and operating costs, as well as being close to the strategic growing battery markets in Asia.

Linear Metals is reactivating exploration on its road accessible, 100% owned, Seymour Lake lithium/tantalum/beryllium property located to the north of Lake Nipigon, near Armstrong, in north-western Ontario, Canada. Linear says "the project is being reactivated in response to rising prices for elements such as lithium and tantalum. Brian MacEachen, President & CEO: "Historic exploration on the large Seymour Lake property has returned some very exciting lithium grades. Incredibly, lithium has never been the primary focus or target of an exploration program and as such the true potential has yet to be tested. We are taking immediate steps to initiate a drill program that will specifically target lithium mineralisation at Seymour Lake."

Lithium One has announced the first results from its Phase 2 diamond drill program at the James Bay lithium project in Quebec, Canada. Consolidated Abaddon is in the process of staking high potential lithium prospects in North America. It is also "evaluating existing lithium prospects for possible joint venture or acquisition.">>>MORE

Butch Cassidy: Kid, the next time I say, "Let's go someplace like Bolivia,"
let's go someplace like Bolivia.
- Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969)
From our post "The lithium boom is coming: The new bubble? (SQM)" which has a half dozen links to prior Bolivia/lithium posts.