electric vehicle plugged into a charging station

What happened in the battery metals market in Australia in the first quarter of 2022? Find out here.

In the last few years, Australia has been positioning itself to take advantage of the green energy transition taking place globally, with plenty of projects focused on battery metals on the horizon.

Prices for raw materials essential to electric vehicle batteries have been on the rise since 2021, with many ASX mining companies in the lithium, cobalt and graphite sectors also posting gains year-to-date.

Here, the Investing News Network looks at what happened so far in 2022 and what could be ahead for Australia’s battery metals market in the second quarter.


Australia battery metals market: Price strength remains

The COVID-19 pandemic brought supply chain problems and uncertainty, disrupting markets globally. Two years later, the world continues to fight the pandemic, and a new set of lockdown measures in China is putting pressure on markets.

However, the economic recovery that started in 2021 as countries reopened will continue in 2022, but at a slower pace, with the overall outlook for Australia’s mineral exports remaining firm.

For battery metals, the first quarter of the year was strong, with lithium and cobalt seeing healthy price environments throughout the period.

Lithium has seen its price increase more than 126 percent year-to-date, with prices climbing more than 480 percent year-on-year, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence data.

The main demand driver for lithium and cobalt is the electric vehicle industry, which had a stellar 2021 worldwide, particularly in the US and Europe, but also in Australia. In 2021, sales in the country tripled between 2020 and 2021, jumping from 6,900 electric vehicles sold to 20,665. These sales have also led to an increase in market share from 0.78 percent to 2 percent, according to the Electric Vehicle Council of Australia.

As sales of electric vehicles climb, automakers have been looking for ways to secure supply of raw materials. That’s why it comes as no surprise that in Q1, Australian junior miners Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR) and Core Lithium (ASX:CXO) inked lithium deals with Elon Musk’s Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA).

In fact, Musk recently said that the “fundamental limiting factor” for EV adoption globally is battery production, and more specifically lithium. With demand for battery metals expected to soar throughout the coming decades, all eyes are on where the supply to meet the needs of the growing EV industry will come from.

Australia hosts the world’s largest lithium mine, Greenbushes, and is also home to key producers, including Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS), Allkem (ASX:ALK) and Mineral Resources (ASX:MRL).

In Q4 2021, Australian spodumene concentrate output rose by 33 percent year-on-year, and further capacity coming on stream in 2022 is expected to result in greater increases in production.

In February, Perth-based Pilbara Minerals posted its first half year profit of AU$114 million on the back of a strong lithium market, with shipments of spodumene concentrate reaching 170,228 dry metric tonnes (dmt), compared with 114,239 dmt a year ago.

“The result reflects continued improvement in lithium market conditions over the period, which has continued its strong momentum into the current half,” the company said in a statement.

Pilbara Minerals, which owns the lithium-tantalum Pilgangoora operation, has partnerships with Ganfeng Lithium (OTC Pink:GNENF,SZSE:002460), General Lithium, Great Wall Motor Company (OTC Pink:GWLLF,HKEX:2333), POSCO (NYSE:PKX), CATL (SZSE:300750) and Yibin Tianyi.

Mineral Resources, in a joint venture with Ganfeng, saw Mt Marion’s spodumene concentrate total 207,000 tonnes in the second half of 2021. Meanwhile, the company’s Wodgina asset, which Mineral Resources is developing with Albemarle (NYSE:ALB), is expected to see its first spodumene production in the third quarter of 2022.

Greenbushes, which is operated by Talison Lithium, a joint venture between Albemarle and Tianqi-IGO (ASX:IGO), has three plants in operation that produced a total of 526,300 tonnes of spodumene concentrate in the second half of 2021.

Expansions in the next couple of years are expected to come primarily from South America, where a number of key producers, including Albemarle, SQM (NYSE:SQM) and Livent (NYSE:LTHM), have committed to increase supply.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence senior analyst Daisy Jennings-Gray pointed out that while some lithium assets have been accelerated, potentially bringing extra supply to market in 2022, the project pipeline still faces delays, which underpins the widening deficit.

Going forward, based on current project announcements, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence expects this deficit to widen over the next couple of years as demand continues to outstrip supply. “However, a number of disruptors, such as novel technology breakthroughs, could ease this imbalance,” Jennings-Gray told INN.

Australia, the biggest lithium exporter in the world, is also eyeing the next step in the supply chain — with the production ramp up of two refineries expected between 2022 and 2023. In fact, the Office of the Chief Economist forecasts: "By 2024, Australia may have around 10 percent of global lithium hydroxide refining capacity, rising to 19 percent of global lithium refining by 2027."

Australia battery metals market: Cobalt hit by Russia-Ukraine war

Cobalt, another key battery metal, also experienced a spike in prices in 2021, doubling in value on the back of surging demand for electric vehicles.

During the first three months of 2022, cobalt's performance was mostly as expected, with strong demand continuing from battery markets and tight conditions persisting, Harry Fisher of CRU Group told the Investing News Network (INN).

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was of course the key shock which has tightened the screws further on the market,” he said. Russia is the world’s second largest producer of cobalt, with output reaching 7,600 tonnes in 2021, according to the US Geological Survey.

Availability of cobalt has been tight due to supply chain and logistical constraints since the second quarter of 2021, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict putting further pressure on supply.

“Downstream users, especially in Europe, are diversifying away from Russian material, considering logistical and payment challenges and the sustainability of doing business with companies based in Russia, even though there are no explicit sanctions on Russian cobalt or other battery metals, lithium and nickel,” Alice Yu of S&P Global Market Intelligence said.

Australia is currently the third-largest cobalt producing country in the world, after Russia and far behind leading producer the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are currently four cobalt producing companies operational in Australia: Glencore (LSE:GLEN), BHP (ASX:BHP,LSE:BHP,NYSE:BHP), First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) and IGO, with Glencore being the dominant producer in the Australian market and the only company producing refined material. Moreover, there are a few cobalt companies developing projects that could help supply the battery market.

“There is expected to be significant growth in consumption, especially for cobalt chemicals, driven by growth in the battery sector and increased EV manufacturing,” according to a report by the OCE. “Mined cobalt production is expected to more than double by 2030 to meet the increase in demand, however this will require significant additional mine capacity to come online over that period.”

In the first quarter of the 2022 calendar year, Glencore made news headlines when it signed a cobalt supply agreement with US carmaker General Motors (NYSE:GM). The Anglo-Swiss company will provide GM with cobalt from its Murrin Murrin mine in Australia.

In other news, India and the Australian government announced that they will jointly put in $6 million for lithium and cobalt mine exploration in Australia over the next six months. During that period, due diligence processes and further investment decisions are expected to be made.

Australia battery metals market: What’s on the horizon

As the next three months of the calendar year unfold, investors interested in battery metals in Australia wonder what might be ahead for the country.

“Australia’s national export income and stock market will likely be jolted higher in Q2 and for the rest of the year, with the luckily commodity-rich country tipped to come out on top while the world braces for the big three Rs: record inflation, rising interest rates and a possible recession,” Jessica Amir, Australian Market Strategist at Saxo Markets, said.

Prices for lithium hit all-time highs in 2021 and are expected to continue to show strength as demand outstrips supply in the foreseeable future.

“Strong demand is currently resulting in shortages of spodumene, lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, which is pushing spot prices for all three commodities to record levels,” according to the Office of the Chief Economist. “Contract prices for spodumene are expected to increase strongly in 2022, driven by rising EV production and short term supply issues.”

This year, prices for spodumene are forecast to rise to an average US$1,300 per tonne, up from around US$660/tonne in 2021, while lithium hydroxide is expected to rise from US$17,970/tonne in 2021 to US$27,000/tonne in 2022.

In terms of Australia’s lithium production, output is projected to more than triple in the next five years, rising from 224,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in 2020 to 2021 to 692,000 tonnes of LCE in 2026 to 2027.

Meanwhile, Australia’s lithium export earnings are forecast to rise from AU$1 billion in 2020 to 2021 to AU$6.7 billion by 2027 (in real terms), as lithium hydroxide production rises. A further five lithium hydroxide refining operations are projected to start operations in the country by then.

Looking over to lithium stocks' performances, Saxo's Amir believes that in the long run, they are generally expected to be key beneficiaries of increasing demand for green energy. More directly, the ramp up in production of electric vehicles, driven by increased consumer uptake and government green subsidies, would have a hand in driving up lithium prices.

Despite this general trend, the analyst also believes that investors will need to look out for potential pitfalls when investing in lithium stocks.

“Often, the devil is in the details, and like all other commodities, location is key to determining whether a lithium producer holds supercharged prospects — factors such as mining geography, proximity to customers and mining majors are important things to look out for,” she said.

For cobalt, prices are expected to remain high in the next three months.

“They may start to adjust down slightly later this year if supply chains can start to normalize, although we are not anticipating a significant fall,” Fisher said. “Overall, the market is expected to be more balanced than in 2021 with further supply additions.”

A key trend investors continue to be interested in is the increased use of cobalt-free cathodes. Lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cathodes have been gaining market share, particularly in standard-range vehicles. In fact, Tesla said it used this type of cathode in nearly half of the models it produced in Q1.

“LFP has built market share in China through 2021 due to the popularity of mini EV models such as the Hongguang Mini ― but nickel-cobalt-manganese cathodes will hold ground for longer-range, larger and higher-performance vehicles,” Fisher said. “We expect that cobalt demand will remain robust for this reason despite LFP’s recent performance.”

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

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Lake Resources CEO Stephen Promnitz: Scaling Lithium Supply with $150 Million Series B Funding

Lake Resources Managing Director Stephen Promnitz

Lake Resources (ASX:LKE,OTCQB:LLKKF) Managing Director Stephen Promnitz says Lake Resources has secured robust financing to scale up lithium production in preparation for the electric vehicle revolution.

Lake Resources has recently established a technology and funding partnership with Lilac Solutions, and the latter has announced $150 Million Series B to scale lithium supply for the electric vehicle era.

Lake Resources: Scaling Lithium Supply with $150 Million Series B Funding www.youtube.com

"Lilac Solutions are actually going to work with us and progressively earn into our flagship Kachi project, and then provide $50 million towards the development of that project. So come the end of October, we should have somewhere around $70 to $80 million in the bank, plus this $50 million commitment from Lilac going forward. And then if we have some additional $75 million options in June next year. Essentially, we can now see a pathway to the entire project being financed," Promnitz said.

Lake Resources and Lilac Solutions signed a partnership agreement wherein Lilac is able to achieve an equity stake in the Kachi project with project funding obligations while providing its leading technology to advance the project.

"There's a real deal here, and now value opportunity. But on top of that, we've de-risked it from the debt side and from the equity side. This project is going to happen, and not only that, we're going to be scaling it up to 50,000 tonnes per annum soon after we get into production. That will make us one of the top five producers in the lithium space."

Watch the full interview of Lake Resources Managing Director Stephen Promnitz above.

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map of austria

Austria is already well positioned to seize on the growth of the electric vehicle market and the future of e-mobility

With a history dating back to the Roman Empire, Austria's mining industry is firmly rooted in tradition. This means that in addition to extensive pre-established infrastructure, there is also a great deal of community and government support in the region. Austria's mature environment, strategic location and industry-friendly political climate make it an ideal investment target.

Austria extracts approximately 80 million tonnes of material resources from its mines each year. As of 2020, the sector employed roughly 4,200 people across mining and production. Austria is also the fifth largest producer of magnesite in the world, and a key producer of graphite for the European market.

Austria is noteworthy for having the largest underground tungsten ore deposit in the world, the largest siderite deposits in the world and the largest talcum deposit in Central Europe. It is also the site of a major lithium deposit. However, it's important to note that mining is currently not a major contributor to Austria's annual gross domestic product, representing just $7.1 billion of $371.8 billion in 2016. The country largely relies on imports from trade partners for most metals, as well as for fossil fuels.


Austria remains a highly promising strategic investment for a multitude of reasons.

The outlook for lithium

As electrification and clean energy continue to gain ground in the EU, demand for lithium, one of the core metals involved in electric vehicle production, has increased exponentially. In 2021 alone, lithium prices skyrocketed, rising by nearly 500 percent. It has been estimated that if supply does not increase significantly, an imbalance might hit as early as 2027.

"There's a growing disconnect between available supply and surging demand," explained Ken Brinsden, chief executive of Australian mining company Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS,OTC Pink:PILBF) "There aren’t enough projects that have been invested in the previous years that could come online. The short term response is definitely going to be tight. If only we had three years ago another mine fully funded when prices were low we would be in balance this year."

Because it is home to one of the last remaining graphite mines in the Alps and hosts multiple major automotive manufacturers, Austria is already well positioned to seize on the growth of the electric vehicle market and the future of e-mobility.

What is the current state of mining in Austria?

From a regulatory perspective, the Mineral Resources Act, which governs and regulates Austria's mining sector, is highly favourable for both domestic and foreign investors. This largely comes down to how mineral resources and deposits are classified under the act. Each deposit falls into one of the following two categories.

  • Freehold: All mineral resources listed in the Austrian Mining Law (various metals, crude oil, natural gas, coal, salt, fluorspar, heavy spar and others) are withdrawn from the property owner. The freehold mineral resources have no ownership and are administered by the federal government. Ownership of them can only be acquired through a granting process controlled by the federal government.
  • Freely mineable: The property owner only has the right to mine so-called property-owned mineral resources (for example, sand, gravel, gypsum, clay, roofing slate and others).

Austria's Mineral Resources Act is also noteworthy for the relatively administratively light-handed approach it takes towards exploration and discovery. To search for freehold and freely mineable resources, a business need only notify Austria's mining administration. Exploration and analysis require prospecting permits, while extraction and production require mining authorization.

While there are a few other requirements around waste management, registration and sustainability, they are all relatively straightforward to secure.

Many of Austria's towns and villages have their roots in mining as well. This has served to drive considerable innovation within the mining sector. More importantly, it means that there is no shortage of skilled labor in the region.

European Union: Critical metals and a green future

The EU participates in the European Climate and Energy Framework 2030, a program focused on practical objectives that can move the world towards net neutrality. It highlights how European solutions are needed to efficiently and cost-effectively bring security of supply and climate protection together in the energy transition. Pursuant to the European Green Deal, this continent plans to to become the first climate-neutral continent.

Economic importance and supply risk are the two most important parameters when determining criticality for the EU. The former deals in detail with the attribution of end users of raw materials on the basis of industrial applications. The latter parameter determines the concentration of global production of primary raw materials and supply to the EU at the country level, highlighting major suppliers like Austria. It also considers the governance of the supplying countries, including environmental aspects, the contribution of recycling, substitution, the EU's dependence on imports and trade restrictions in outside countries.

The European Battery Alliance, launched in October 2017 by European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, is meant to ensure that all Europeans benefit from safer traffic, cleaner vehicles and more sustainable technological solutions. The intention is to achieve this through a localised supply chain. The economic upside is clear: the market will have an estimated annual value of up to 250 billion euros by 2025. Lithium is a critical component of this stable, sustainable supply that supports a green economy.
infographic with house and car

Largest producing mines in Austria

In 2016, Austria was home to more than 1,100 mining and quarrying operations, Materials produced by Austria include iron, graphite, salt, tungsten, magnesite, limestone, gypsum, anhydrite, kaolin, talc, leucophyllum, dolomite, quartz sand and oil shale.

Erzberg

The massive Erzberg open-pit iron mine is located in Eisenerz, Styria. Operated by Voestalpine (VIE:VOE), the mine is the site of the largest iron ore deposit in Austria. Located 60 kilometres northwest of Graz and 260 kilometres southwest of Vienna, it produces approximately 2.153 million tonnes of ore a year.

Mittersill

Located 30 kilometres south of Kitzbühel, the Mittersill mine is built atop the largest scheelite deposit in the EU. Also known as the Felbertal mine, MIttersill is a major source of tungsten trioxide, producing an average of 1,200 tonnes of the mineral per year. The mine is owned by Wolfram Bergbau und Hütten, a subsidiary of Swedish multinational engineering firm Sandvik (STO:SAND).

Hallein

Bordering the city of Salzburg, the federally owned Hallein salt mine is one of the oldest active mining sites in the world. Operational for over 7,000 years, the underground mine doubles as a mining museum. In 1829, the mine actually grew large enough that it crossed over the border to neighboring Bavaria, resulting in the Bavarian-Austrian Salt Treaty.

Kaisersberg

The last active graphite mine in the Alps, the Kaisersberg mine, first began production as early as 1755. It is owned by Grafitbergbau Kaisersberg, a privately owned business based out of the town of Kaisersberg. The mine is linked directly to both local and international railway systems for more efficient delivery.

Breitenau

Located in the province of Styria in Central Austria, Breitenau is one of the largest underground magnesite mines in the world, and the largest magnesite operations in Austria. It's owned and operated by Veitsch-Radex, a subsidiary of RHI Magnesita (LSE:RHIM). Veitsch-Radex also owns two other magnesite mines in Gulsen and Millstatteralpe/Radentheim.

Current mining exploration companies in Austria

European Lithium (ASX:EUR)

European Lithium's current project, the wholly owned Wolfsberg project, is located 270 kilometres south of Austria's capital, Vienna. Just east of the industrial town of Wolfsberg, it is comprised of 22 original and 32 overlapping exploration licences and a mining licence covering 11 areas. Situated close to comprehensive existing infrastructure, the project is built atop a foundation of extensive testing, exploration, mining and prefeasibility studies conducted by prior owners.

The current resource is 9.7 million tonnes at 1 percent lithium oxide. This paves the way for a definitive feasibility study slated for Q3 2022. The company believes that the mine has potential for a lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. Based on the prefeasibility alone, the net present value is at AU$862 million, though this is expected to rise to US$1.6 billion upon the new study’s completion. The mine is expected to commence production towards the end of 2024.

Richmond Minerals (TSXV:RMD)

A mineral exploration company that has been heavily engaged in exploration projects throughout Quebec and Ontario, Richmond Minerals recently expanded its focus from Canada to Austria with the Oberzeiring polymetallic project. Comprised of 99 claims near the village of Oberzeiring, the project is located at the site of what was formerly one of the largest silver mines in the Eastern Alps.

Aurex Biomining

Based in Switzerland, Aurex Biomining was the original owner of the Oberzeiring polymetallic project before selling it to Richmond. The company also maintains a gold project of approximately 20 square kilometres near the town of Pusterwald. The company is also pioneering a unique environmentally friendly biomining process.

Takeaway

Austria's mature mining infrastructure, industry-friendly regulatory climate, role in the automotive market and emerging mining projects make the country a strong contender for future investment. As the drive for electrification continues, the region has the potential to play a pivotal role in the development of the EU's lithium supply chain. Initiatives such as European Lithium’s Wolfsberg project have the potential to help immensely in this regard, particularly given Austria's proximity to multiple operating and proposed gigafactories.

This INNSpired article is sponsored by European Lithium (ASX:EUR,FWB:PF8).This INNSpired article provides information which was sourced by the Investing News Network (INN) and approved by European Lithium in order to help investors learn more about the company. European Lithium is a client of INN. The company’s campaign fees pay for INN to create and update this INNSpired article.

This INNSpired article was written according to INN editorial standards to educate investors.

INN does not provide investment advice and the information on this profile should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security. INN does not endorse or recommend the business, products, services or securities of any company profiled.

The information contained here is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of securities. Readers should conduct their own research for all information publicly available concerning the company. Prior to making any investment decision, it is recommended that readers consult directly with European Lithium and seek advice from a qualified investment advisor.

EUR:AU

Ioneer Ltd is pleased to announce that the Company has reached an agreement to establish a joint venture with Sibanye Stillwater Limited to develop the flagship Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project located in Nevada, USA . Under the terms of the agreement, Sibanye-Stillwater will contribute US$490 million for a 50% interest in the Joint Venture, with ioneer to maintain a 50% interest and retain operatorship. ioneer …

Ioneer Ltd (“ioneer” or the “Company”) (ASX: INR) is pleased to announce that the Company has reached an agreement to establish a joint venture (the ” Joint Venture “) with Sibanye Stillwater Limited ( “Sibanye-Stillwater” ) to develop the flagship Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project located in Nevada, USA (the “Project” ). Under the terms of the agreement, Sibanye-Stillwater will contribute US$490 million for a 50% interest in the Joint Venture, with ioneer to maintain a 50% interest and retain operatorship. ioneer has also agreed to provide Sibanye-Stillwater with an option to participate in 50% of the North Basin 1 upon the election of Sibanye-Stillwater to contribute up to an additional US$50 million subject to certain terms and conditions.

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business people stacking wooden blocks

Australian lithium miners continued to move ahead with their projects during the year's third financial quarter.

After hitting all-time highs in 2021, lithium prices started to stabilise in 2022's first quarter.

China’s lockdown measures to battle COVID-19 have disrupted the supply chain and impacted domestic demand in recent weeks, but this is expected to be temporary, according to William Adams of Fastmarkets.

“The lithium market is very tight. We don't see that easing anytime soon,” he said during a recent webinar about risks in the battery metals market. “We think the underlying fundamentals and the trends are still very strong.”


During the third quarter of the financial year, Australian lithium miners continued to move ahead with their projects, and despite the increased volatility in the markets, many ASX lithium stocks saw share price gains as well.

Perth-based Pilbara Minerals' (ASX:PLS,OTC Pink:PILBF) production for the quarter was 81,431 dry metric tonnes (dmt), slightly down compared to the previous three months, but within guidance. The company said the main factor impacting output was higher COVID-19 cases, which resulted in staff and contractor shortages.

“COVID-19 has (and may continue in the near term) to cause operational delays, including staffing shortages for both shut-down and operating staff (mining and processing),” the company said in a statement. Even so, Pilbara has decided to maintain its production guidance in the range of 340,000 to 380,000 dmt.

During its fourth battery material exchange auction, the company saw the highest bid ever at US$5,650 per dmt for a cargo of 5,000 dmt of spodumene, showing the critical shortage in lithium raw material supply.

Western Australia-focused Pilbara, which owns the lithium-tantalum Pilgangoora operation, has partnerships with Ganfeng Lithium (OTC Pink:GNENF,SZSE:002460), General Lithium, Great Wall Motor Company (OTC Pink:GWLLF,HKEX:2333), POSCO (NYSE:PKX), CATL (SZSE:300750) and Yibin Tianyi.

Shares of Pilbara were trading at AU$2.53 on May 10, down 28.13 percent year-to-date, but up more than 100 percent compared to this time last year.

For its part, leading Australian lithium and iron ore miner Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN,OTC Pink:MALRF) saw its Mount Marion mine’s production reach 104,000 dmt during the quarter; it also shipped 94,000 dmt of spodumene concentrate. The company is maintaining its full-year production guidance at 450,000 to 475,000 dmt.

In April, Mineral Resources and partner Ganfeng agreed to optimise production and upgrade Mount Marion's processing facilities. Spodumene concentrate capacity at the operation is expected to increase from 450,000 dmt per year to 600,000 dmt annually.

“The decision to upgrade the plant reflects an expectation that the lithium market outlook will remain extremely strong for the foreseeable future,” the company said in a press release. A second stage increase, expected to be completed by the end of 2022, will see capacity rise further to reach 900,000 dmt.

Aside from Mount Marion, the company holds interests in Wodgina in partnership with another top producer — Albemarle (NYSE:ALB). The companies decided to restart Wodgina last year as a result of soaring global lithium demand. The mine produced its first spodumene concentrate on May 12.

“(We have) also agreed to review the state of the global lithium market towards the end of this calendar year to assess timing for the start-up of Train 3 and the possible construction of Train 4,” the company said. Each train has a nameplate capacity of 250,000 dmt of 6 percent product.

Mineral Resources’ share price was down 10.71 percent on May 10, trading at AU$52.71. That said, the stock is up 9.11 percent year-on-year.

During the March quarter, Argentina-focused Allkem (ASX:AKE,OTC Pink:OROCF) outlined its plans to increase lithium production threefold by 2026 and become a top three chemicals supplier.

In Western Australia, the company owns the Mount Cattlin mine, which produced 48,562 dmt of spodumene concentrate and shipped 66,011 tonnes in the March quarter.

“Strong conditions in the spodumene market are supporting advanced discussions for spodumene concentrate pricing in the June quarter of approximately US$5,000 per dmt SC6 percent CIF on sales of approximately 50,000 tonnes,” the company told investors in a note.

In Argentina, Allkem operates the Salar de Olaroz and is developing the Sal de Vida lithium brine. Additionally, in partnership with Toyota Tsusho (TSE:8015), Allkem is building a 10,000 tonne per year lithium hydroxide plant in Naraha, Japan. The company also owns the James Bay lithium pegmatite project in Canada.

On May 10, shares of Allkem were changing hands for AU$10.95, down 2.23 percent year-to-date, but up over 55 percent year-on-year.

Although its main focus is nickel, Independence Group (ASX:IGO) joined the lithium party last year after it bought a stake in Tianqi Lithium’s Australian assets. The companies, in joint venture, now control the majority of the biggest lithium mine in the world — Greenbushes.

Production at the mine was up 5 percent quarter-on-quarter at 270,464 tonnes of spodumene concentrate. By 2025, Greenbushes is expected to add around 800,000 tonnes per year to its output capacity.

IGO has seen its share price decline 4.63 percent year-to-date, trading at AU$11.34 on May 11. However, the stock is up 47.27 year-on-year.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Galaxy Resources Limited advises that the following announcement has been made to the Australian Securities Exchange which appears on the Company’s platform : Merger of Galaxy and Orocobre Implemented The announcement can be viewed at: SOURCE Galaxy Resources Limited View original content

Galaxy Resources Limited (ASX: GXY) ( Company ) advises that the following announcement has been made to the Australian Securities Exchange which appears on the Company’s platform (ASX):

  • Merger of Galaxy and Orocobre Implemented

The announcement can be viewed at:

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Green Technology Metals
Green Technology Metals
Green Technology Metals

Green Technology Metals Limited (ASX: GT1) (GT1 or the Company) is pleased to provide further assay results from the Phase 1 diamond drilling program at its Seymour Lithium Project in Ontario, Canada.


HIGHLIGHTS

  • Assays received for further seven holes from Phase 1 step-out diamond drilling of North Aubry deposit at GT1’s flagship Seymour Lithium Project.
  • Additional thick, high-grade extensional intercepts of North Aubry deposit including:
    • GTDD-22-0001 for 10.5m @ 1.77% Li2O from 123.2m (incl. 7.0m @ 2.11% Li2O)
    • GTDD-22-0013 for 18.2m @ 1.10% Li2O from 304.2m (incl. 3.1m @ 2.05% Li2O)
    • GTDD-22-0014 for 4.5m @ 0.61% Li2O from 250.7m (incl. 2.5m @ 1.01% Li2O)
  • Further northern step-out drilling of North Aubry deposit commenced; hole GTDD-22-0320 intercepts 10.7m of pegmatite with significant visible spodumene (assays pending), extending the known North Aubry pegmatite a further 150m down-dip from the nearest intercept.
  • Results from Phase 1 drilling (assays now returned for all 16 holes) indicate substantial potential upside to existing Seymour Mineral Resource estimate of 4.8 Mt @ 1.25% Li2O 1 .
  • Updated Mineral Resource estimate for Seymour on track for completion during Q2 CY2022.
  • No significant lithium intercepts >1.0% Li20 were returned from initial exploration drilling of the eastern Central Aubry zone (7 holes) and Pye prospect (6 holes).
  • Drilling is targeted to resume from June at both Central Aubry (western) and Pye (targeting LCTtype pegmatites of over 250m strike that were identified in the initial drilling).

“In total, the Phase 1 drilling program at Seymour has been highly successful. The results are expected to drive a substantial increase to the existing Seymour resource this quarter. We are also pleased to have commenced further northern and down-dip extensional drilling of the North Aubry pegmatite so rapidly. The initial result from hole GTDD-22-0320 offers further immediate potential to positively impact on mineralised pegmatite extents and volume.” - GT1 Chief Executive Officer, Luke Cox

Further significant step-out intercepts at North Aubry

The Phase 1 drilling program at Seymour was designed to evaluate potential along-strike and down-dip extensions of the North Aubry deposit that were open and untested. The final program consisted of 16 diamond drill holes for a total of 5,826 metres.

Figure 1: Location map of northern area of the Seymour Project showing North and South Aubry deposits, Central Aubry zone and Pye prospect

All but one hole in the Phase 1 program intersected pegmatite along strike and down dip (refer GT1 ASX release dated 28 April 2022) with the single hole barren of pegmatite, GTDD-22-011, on the southeast flank of the deposit, marking the southerly limit of the North Aubry pegmatites. The intercepts returned from solely the upper pegmatite at North Aubry range in thickness up to 42.7m, with the widest intervals located in the northern extensions of the deposit.

Assays have now been returned for all 16 of the holes drilled in the Phase 1 program.

Significant assay results from the seven further holes that were recently received are detailed in Table 1 (along with details of the previously released intercepts also). The key intercepts were:

  • GTDD-22-0001 for 10.5m @ 1.77% Li2O from 123.2m (incl. 7.0m @ 2.11% Li2O)
  • GTDD-22-0013 for 18.2m @ 1.10% Li2O from 304.2m (incl. 3.1m @ 2.05% Li2O)
  • GTDD-22-0014 for 4.5m @ 0.61% Li2O from 250.7m (incl. 2.5m @ 1.01% Li2O)
  • GTDD-22-0002 for 9.0m @ 0.68% Li2O from 174.0m

Click here for the full ASX Release

This article includes content from Green Technology Metals Limited (ASX: GT1), licensed for the purpose of publishing on Investing News Australia. This article does not constitute financial product advice. It is your responsibility to perform proper due diligence before acting upon any information provided here. Please refer to our full disclaimer here.

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The gold price is trading lower than some market watchers would prefer, but the top-performing ASX gold stocks so far this year are making leaps.

Click here to read the previous best ASX gold stocks article.

While 2021 was a disappointing year for gold, analysts are optimistic about the outlook for 2022.

The yellow metal passed the US$2,000 per ounce mark as tensions between Russia and Ukraine heated up, but has since pulled back to trade closer to US$1,800. However, diverse factors could combine to push it higher.

Demand for gold jewellery, gold bars and coins, and the metal’s use in the technology sector are still going strong, and supply is also a growing concern due to decreased gold exploration efforts in recent years.


Against this backdrop, many Australian gold stocks are doing well. And with the precious metal generally considered a safe investment, it's worth being aware of the county's top-performing companies.

Here the Investing News Network looks at the best ASX gold stocks of the year so far by year-to-date gains. The list of stocks below was generated on April 29, 2022, using TradingView’s stock screener, and all companies included had market caps over AU$30 million at that time.

1. Xantippe Resources

Year-to-date gain: 180 percent; market cap: AU$107.3 million; current share price: AU$0.01

Xantippe Resources (ASX:XTC) is focused on Western Australia's Southern Cross region, which is widely known for its past gold production. The precious metals explorer's Southern Cross project is made up of 20 prospecting licences and six exploration licences, and holds a number of key priority targets.

In late April, Xantippe confirmed the acquisition of lithium tenements in Argentina with the hope of commencing exploration activities in the third quarter.

2. Minrex Resources

Year-to-date gain: 55.81 percent; market cap: AU$63.05 million; current share price: AU$0.07

Minrex Resources’ (ASX:MRR) assets include five gold and base metals projects in Western Australia, four of which are in the mineral-rich East Pilbara region.

The company started off the year with high-grade gold drill results from its work at the Queenslander gold prospect within its Sofala project. The prospect is centred around the past-producing Queenslander mine.

3. Aston Minerals

Year-to-date gain: 38.1 percent; market cap: AU$164.19 million; current share price: AU$0.15

Gold and nickel-cobalt explorer Aston Minerals (ASX:ASO) is moving forward at its Edleston gold project, located in the Cadillac-Larder Lake fault zone of Canada's Abitibi greenstone belt. Edleston is its flagship asset, and according to the company, it is the first in over a decade to drill in this area.

Aston continues to focus on gold at Edleston, but its Boomerang nickel-cobalt target has come to the forefront in recent months, with the company announcing the results of its maiden hole there in early December.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Marlee John, currently hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

person holding lit light bulb over desk next to ascending stacks of coins

At the recent RIU Resources Round-Up event in Sydney, Harry Fisher of CRU Group shared key factors battery metals investors should keep an eye out for.

After 2021's big price increases for raw materials, all eyes are on what may happen next in the electric vehicle (EV) market ― the main driver of demand for battery metals such as lithium and cobalt.

EV sales had a stellar year in 2020, even as the world suffered through the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2021 brought strong sales numbers as well.

“EV sales doubled last year alone, and we're expecting them to surpass 10 million this year,” Harry Fisher of CRU Group told the audience at the RIU Resources Round-Up in Sydney last week.


CRU Group is forecasting that EV penetration will reach 20 to 22 percent by 2026 ― that would translate to an additional 17 million in annual sales compared to today.

“Since 2017, we've had more than 50 percent annual growth for EV demand each year, and over the next 20 years EV battery demand will increase by more than 10 times,” Fisher said.

The analyst shared with the audience the main themes he believes will continue to be front and centre in discussions surrounding the battery metals industry.

“We've seen incredible price performance, particularly for lithium, and also for cobalt and nickel, in the last really 18 months, but even more so this year,” Fisher said. “I don't think many of us expected prices to go as high as they have gone, particularly for lithium and nickel.”

Lithium prices have increased north of 400 percent since 2021, with nickel prices on the London Metal Exchange reaching a historical high of more than U$100,000 per tonne earlier this year. These high levels have been hitting EV producers, many of which have increased prices.

“In the last week or so, we've seen that the battery producers' Q1 margins have fallen substantially, so they're really feeling the heat of this, and that is starting to have some tangible effects in the market,” Fisher said.

All in all, CRU is expecting prices to level off the current peak, but to remain strong in the medium term on the back of demand from the EV sector.

Another big theme to keep an eye on is the increasing regionalization of supply chains. Even though EV and battery makers in Europe and North America have made announcements about setting up gigafactories, there has not been a lot of movement in the upstream and the midstream parts of the supply chain.

Around 40 percent of lithium supply comes from South America, with another 45 percent coming from top-producing country Australia. For cobalt, 70 percent of supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. But all that output ends mostly in China ― which controls over 70 percent of the midstream.

“That's obviously not ideal from a supply security perspective, but it also means the supply chains aren't particularly efficient from a cost perspective,” Fisher said. “Also, from a safety perspective, moving around battery chemicals, precursor batteries — it makes a lot more sense to have the upstream and midstream closer to market.”

With EV demand expected keep soaring, there’s a lot more that needs to be done to strengthen supply chains.

“We need to start seeing more investment to support the EV markets, and to prevent them from relying solely on China and Asia for all of their battery materials,” Fisher said.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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