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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.

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