Lithium supply shortage to continueSep 26, 2022
The lithium supply shortage is set to continue for at least the rest of this decade and into the 2030s, says a key adviser to the London Metals Exchange and LME lithium committee inaugural chairman Ron Mitchell.
As reported in the AFR this morning, Mitchell said that for lithium production to come anywhere near meeting upcoming demand, a lot of new mines would be needed and that “a lot is going to have to go right if we’re going to get the tonnes we need in the market”.
The increasing demand from European car makers has driven a steep rise in prices for the key battery ingredient since 2020.
Yet the market still has a lack of price transparency, which was largely behind the reason that the LME joined forces with reporting agency Fastmarkets in mid-2021 to launch a futures contract for lithium hydroxide.
But even with this lithium futures contract, it remains hard to compare lithium to other commodities. Because it is a nuanced specialty chemical, every lithium product is different, making it difficult to trade off a futures index and apply discounts or premiums based on quality.
Mitchell also highlighted the challenges around the shelf-life of the material that make it hard for physical trading as well, explaining that “you can’t just store it in a shed and leave it there for two or three months and then as the price increases bring it to market. There’s risk in doing that.”
Mitchell also commented on the trend of car makers taking equity positions in lithium producers and explorers, such as Toyota with Allkem, Ford with Liontown and Great Wall with Pilbara Minerals. We’d add Vulcan Energy Resources (ASX: VUL) to that list which last year received a A$76M (€50M) equity investment from Stellantis N.V.
Looking ahead, Mitchell expects that trend to continue and it to also extend to producers and explorers of other battery minerals
The chairman of the London Metals Exchanges lithium committee says car and battery makers are growing desperate to secure long-term supply as consumers line up for electric vehicles. https://t.co/T1CX0KAkna— Financial Review (@FinancialReview) September 25, 2022