Top News

man working on blueprints

INN explores Australia's electric vehicle raw materials landscape and what could be ahead for the country.

With plenty of natural resources and a key geographical location, there's little doubt Australia will play an important role in the global transition to green energy.

The country is a top producer of key raw materials needed for electrification, from lithium to rare earths.

Here the Investing News Network (INN) explores Australia's electric vehicle (EV) raw materials landscape and what could be ahead for the country in a space that keeps evolving at a rapid pace.


Australia's resources to feed the EV and energy storage revolution

Australia is well known for its resource-rich land, with mining taking place all around the country.

"Australia is a politically stable and low-risk jurisdiction which is very familiar with mining," Harry Fisher of CRU Group told INN. "There is a high level of domestic mining expertise, enabling Australia to produce a large number of commodities and be a major producer in numerous different markets."

The mining industry accounts for 75 percent of the country's exports, which vary from coal to iron ore. And despite being a top producer of many commodities, close to 80 percent of the country is yet to be explored.

When looking at demand from the EV and energy storage industries, Australia has a unique opportunity, as it hosts many of the critical minerals needed.

But it's not just about resources — developing secure supply chains for raw materials has become a top priority for global governments, and the push for a green future has put EVs centre stage.

For its part, the Australian government has outlined a strategy "to enable the development of Australia's critical minerals sector, including downstream processing and manufacturing opportunities, by attracting investment, supporting innovation and connecting opportunities with infrastructure."

The plan includes lithium and cobalt, which are essential in cathodes for lithium-ion batteries, and rare earths, which are used in permanent magnets to power EVs.

Lithium in Australia

Although its output has decreased in the last couple of years, Australia is the world's top lithium producer, with exports of the raw material reaching AU$1.1 billion from 2019 to 2020.

"Australia was responsible for about 45 percent of global lithium mine supply in 2020," Fisher said. "There is strong potential for that to increase with expansions in the pipeline."

According to the US Geological Survey, Australia accounted for 40,000 metric tons of lithium in 2020, and holds over 4.7 million metric tons of identified lithium reserves.

Most lithium found in the country is in hard-rock, pegmatite-hosted resources, which are largely located in Western Australia, with most of the country's lithium supply being exported to China as spodumene.

Notably, the country is home to Greenbushes, the world's biggest lithium mine. It is operated by Talison Lithium, owned by Albemarle (NYSE:ALB) and joint venture partners Tianqi (SZSE:002466) and IGO (ASX:IGO).

Aside from Greenbushes, major Australian operations include Pilbara Minerals' (ASX:PLS,OTC Pink:PILBF), Pilgangoora tantalum-lithium mine, as well as Mineral Resources' (ASX:MIN) Mount Marion, which it is developing with Ganfeng (OTC Pink:GNENF,SZSE:002460), and Wodgina, which it holds in a joint venture with Albemarle. There is also Mount Cattlin, which is being developed by soon-to-be named Allkem ― the proposed company brand for the merger of Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY) and Orocobre (ASX:ORE,OTC Pink:OROCF).

Oversupply fears paired with delays in conversion capacity hit the market in 2018, with price pressures leading to halts in expansions and production. Following a tough few years, lithium prices have been on the rebound in 2021 as demand from the EV sector continues to show strength despite the pandemic.

Lithium demand is forecast to almost triple by 2025, with the Australian government expecting spodumene exports to increase from 1.4 million tonnes in 2020 to 2.1 million to 2.2 million tonnes from 2022 to 2023.

But miners still have challenges going forward. Labour costs and shortages have been flagged as potential issues for construction and restarts of operations in Australia, according to CRU Group.

Additionally, as mentioned, Australia primarily sources lithium from hard rock, which is inherently more costly to convert into lithium carbonate compared to producing lithium carbonate from brine. However, this is expected to be more competitive in terms of producing hydroxide directly from hard rock.

"On the hard-rock mining cost curve, Australian assets are generally lower cost due to grades and economies of scale," James Jeary of CRU said when asked about the challenges lithium miners in the country face at the moment. "Junior Australian lithium miners face tough competition from incumbent domestic producers, but also other junior miners around the world."

Cobalt in Australia

Lithium is not the only battery metal the land down under is looking to develop. Cobalt, another essential element in cathodes for lithium-ion batteries, is also found in the country.

The metal is mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has often been linked to human rights abuses and child labour, bringing worries over security of supply.

"While the DRC will remain the dominant source of cobalt for the battery industry, we forecast Australia's share of mined cobalt supply to increase from 3.6 percent in 2021 to 4.4 percent by 2030," Greg Miller, analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, told INN.

Australia has the second largest cobalt resource in the world, estimated at around 19 percent of the global total; however, it currently only contributes 4 percent of global mine supply. The country's mined cobalt is typically a by-product of nickel laterite resources.

There are currently four producing companies in the country: Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF), BHP (ASX:BHP,LSE:BHP,NYSE:BHP), First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF) and IGO. Glencore's Murrin Murrin is the largest cobalt producer in Australia.

Australian miners with cobalt projects in the country include Sunrise Energy Metals (ASX:SRL,OTCQX:SREMF), formerly Clean TeQ, which is developing the Sunrise project. The asset is considered one of the largest and most cobalt-rich nickel laterite deposits in the world.

Additionally, Jervois Mining (ASX:JRV) is developing its Nico Young deposit, and Cobalt Blue Holdings (ASX:COB,OTC Pink:CBBHF) has its efforts on the Broken Hill cobalt project in New South Wales.

The biggest advantage of Australian cobalt is its enhanced environmental, social and governance credentials compared to material mined in other regions, particularly the DRC, Miller said.

"For OEMs and cell makers alike, sourcing cobalt from Australia allows for greater supply chain transparency through improved traceability and audibility," he added.

Indeed, the analyst pointed out that BMW (OTC Pink:BAMXF,ETR:BMW) chose to source a portion of its cobalt through to 2025 from Murrin Murrin in Australia for these very reasons, avoiding mines in the DRC.

"Further to this, as the US accelerates the build out of a domestic lithium-ion battery supply chain and moves to reduce its exposure to Chinese dominated supply chains, western automakers sourcing cobalt from Australia would satisfy the Biden administration's strategy of sourcing critical battery raw materials from 'strategic allies,'" Miller said.

Similarly, Fisher said Australia is a politically stable and low-risk jurisdiction that is very familiar with mining.

"There is a high level of domestic mining expertise enabling Australia to produce a large number of commodities and be a major producer in numerous different markets," he explained to INN. "Quality and economic cobalt resources are therefore likely to be developed to support rising global demand, with a number already in operation."

According to CRU Group data, Australia produced just under 6,000 tonnes of cobalt in 2020, equating to around 4 percent of global mine supply.

"We forecast that this could rise to close to 9,000 tonnes by 2025," Fisher said. "New projects that could come online over the next few years include Western Areas' (ASX:WSA,OTC Pink:WNARF) Cosmos and (formerly) Clean TeQ's Sunrise project; however, both need further development and funding to progress. There are also production expansions expected at a number of existing operations."

Rare earths in Australia

Other critical minerals worth looking at are rare earths, a group of 17 elements found in everything from batteries to wind turbines. Some of the most important rare earths used in permanent magnet production for EVs are neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium.

Despite lagging far behind China, Australia is in fact a top producer, with output reaching 17,000 metric tons last year. Australia accounts for about 10 percent of the total rare earth element (REE) production and it is the fourth largest producer of REEs.

ASX-listed Lynas (ASX:LYC,OTC Pink:LYSCF) is the owner and operator of the Mount Weld REE mine in Australia, and it could potentially double production if its processing plant in Malaysia is expanded, Luisa Moreno of Tahiti Global told INN.

Additionally, Iluka Resources' (ASX:ILU) Eneabba project is expected to reach production of monazite mineral concentrate this year.

"Unfortunately, Australia does not have commercial-scale REE processing capacity to produce REE mixed chemicals concentrate or to separate and refine REE elements," she said. "However, there are several other REE projects in the feasibility stage … so yes, Australia is definitely moving in the right direction."

Companies moving forward with REE projects in the country include Arafura Resources (ASX:ARU,OTC Pink:ARAFF), which is updating its feasibility study for the Nolans Bore project and actively looking for project financing; there is also Enova Mining (ASX:ENV), which is completing a new drilling program at Charles Creek and performing new metallurgical tests, and Hastings Technology Metals (ASX:HAS), which is optimising Yangibana's feasibility study.

Looking over to the outlook for the rare earths market, production of these critical minerals would have to increase by more than 50 percent by 2030 to fulfill demand.

"But without the support of the markets and governments to develop the Australian projects — and others around the world — REEs may become the most critical materials for the green industrial revolution, with China as the ultimate supplier," Moreno said.

Junior miners developing rare earths projects in Australia face challenges similar those in the rest of the world, according to Moreno, with one of them being metallurgical.

"One important step in the REE flowsheet is the production of a mineral concentrate with at least 30 percent total REE," she said. "And although most of the projects in Australia have as the dominant minerals monazite and bastnaesite, which are the common minerals in commercially operated mines, many junior companies are still not able to economically produce the essential REE mineral concentrate."

The other big hurdle is financing.

"As part of the feasibility study, companies should build demonstration plants to de-risk the projects," Moreno said. "These demo plants could cost tens of millions to build and operate, and after proving the process at that scale, the construction of a fully integrated plant could cost hundreds of millions depending on the size."

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.

Featured
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.

read more Show less

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.

read more Show less

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:

read more Show less

There are many big Australian gold stocks, but these are the five top companies in the sector by market cap.

Australia is the fourth largest producer of gold worldwide, and this past year has brought ups and downs for the commodity. The precious metal hit its 2021 high point early on and fell soon after.

Lately, gold has been resting at a strong price of around US$1,800 per ounce, and it seems like it will exit the year that way. It may even be in for a serious price hike if inflationary pressures continue on their current trajectory.

Read on to learn more about Australia’s five top gold companies by market cap. All market cap and share price information was obtained on November 25, 2021, using TradingView's stock screener.


1. Newcrest Mining

Market cap: AU$19.54 billion; current share price: AU$24.14

Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) operates a portfolio of gold mines across Australia, Canada and Papua New Guinea. These include its New South Wales-based Cadia mine and its Western Australia-based Telfer and Havieron mines.

In November 2021, Newcrest agreed to purchase British Columbia-based Pretium Resources (TSX:PVG,NYSE:PVG) for C$3.5 billion, marking the company’s expansion into Western Canada.

2. Kirkland Lake Gold

Market cap: AU$14.57 billion; current share price: AU$54.99

Kirkland Lake Gold (ASX:KLA) has mining operations in Australia and Canada, both of which are low-risk, gold-rich countries. The company’s Fosterville mine is based in Victoria, Australia, and as of December 31, 2018, its mineral reserves stood at 2.7 million ounces. It produced 640,467 ounces in 2020.

In September 2021, Kirkland Lake Gold and Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX:AEM,NYSE:AEM), a Canadian gold miner, announced a “merger of equals." The new company will go by the name Agnico Eagle Mines, and the companies expect the transaction to close in late 2021 or early 2022.

3. AngloGold Ashanti

Market cap: AU$12.43 billion; current share price: AU$5.83

AngloGold Ashanti (ASX:AGG) is a global gold miner formed in 2004. It has two Australia-based operations, both of which are based in Western Australia’s northeastern goldfields: Sunrise Dam and Tropicana. Sunrise Dam is 100 percent owned, while Tropicana is 70 percent owned, with the remaining 30 percent owned by Regis Resources (ASX:RRL,OTC Pink:RGRNF). In 2020, these operations produced 554,000 ounces of gold.

In Q3 2021, AngloGold Ashanti reported total gold production of 613,000 ounces at a total cash cost of US$927 per ounce. This represents a 5 percent quarter-over-quarter increase in production, though a year-to-date decrease.

4. Northern Star Resources

Market cap: AU$11.39 billion; current share price: AU$9.66

Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST) is an Australian gold-mining company with projects throughout Western Australia and North America at its Kalgoorlie, Yandal and Pogo production centres. In the 2021 fiscal year, Northern Star experienced a 40 percent revenue increase and a 10 percent cash earnings hike.

In late November 2021, Northern Star announced an agreement to buy Newmont Australia’s power business for US$95 million. The company paid US$25 million for the option to purchase this business, an opportunity it was given through its recent 50 percent acquisition of Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines.

5. Evolution Mining

Market cap: AU$7.53 billion; current share price: AU$4.12

Australian gold miner Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) has projects throughout New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as in Ontario, Canada. Evolution Mining produced 680,788 ounces of gold in the 2021 fiscal year at an all-in sustaining cost of AU$1,215 per ounce.

In 2019, Evolution Mining became one of only two Australian gold companies to be included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (INDEXDJX:W1SGI). In 2020 and 2021, the company made several strategic acquisitions and divestments, including its high-value purchases of the Red Lake and the Kundana operations.

This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2018.

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

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

What are the largest Australian copper companies? These five ASX copper stocks are the biggest on the exchange by market cap.

Last year, pandemic restrictions forced copper mines to shut down across the world, driving down global production and causing the 10 largest copper-mining companies to suffer dramatic losses.

But in 2021, copper hit an all-time high of US$10,700 per tonne, and stayed over US$9,000 for much of the year.

The three top copper-producing countries globally are Chile, Peru and China, with Australia coming in at number six. Still, there are plenty of untapped resources in the land down under, and Australia is making a name for itself as an up-and-coming producer of this important base metal.


Read on to learn more about the top five Australian copper companies on the ASX, ranked by market cap. All market cap and share price information was obtained on November 26, 2021, from TradingView.

1. BHP

Market cap: AU$192.56 billion; current share price: AU$38.03

BHP (ASX:BHP) is a top global producer of copper, nickel, potash, iron ore and metallurgical coal, with copper production centralised at its South Australia-based Olympic Dam mine.

The company, whose headquarters are in Melbourne, Australia, emphasises copper’s function in renewable energy systems and the metal’s critical role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Recently, BHP has focused its attention on its energy assets. In late November, the company merged its oil and gas portfolio with Woodside Petroleum, a deal that was originally struck in August of the same year. On the mineral side of its operations, BHP was looking to acquire Noront Resources (TSXV:NOT,OTC Pink:NOSOF), a Canada-based nickel, copper, chrome and platinum company, but decided not to match a superior offer.

2. OZ Minerals 

Market cap: AU$8.77 billion; current share price: AU$25.70

OZ Minerals (ASX:OZL) is a South Australia-based copper-mining company founded in 2008. Its operations include the Carrapateena project, where construction was completed in 2019, and the upcoming Malu underground mine, which was commissioned in 2015.

In a November press release, OZ Minerals reported a year-to-date 5 percent increase in group ore reserve copper metal tonnes. In its third quarter results, the company reported guidance of between 120,000 and 145,000 tonnes of copper for the year.

3. Sandfire Resources

Market cap: AU$2.59 billion; current share price: AU$6.11

Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) owns 7,189 square kilometres in the Bryah Basin region of Western Australia, including its DeGrussa and Monty operations. Both of these are 100 percent owned and produce copper and gold.

The company released its third quarter results in October, reporting total copper production of 15,946 tonnes. Sandfire expects output of between 64,000 and 68,000 tonnes of copper in 2022.

4. 29Metals

Market cap: AU$1.29 billion; current share price: AU$2.63

Australia-based mining company 29Metals (ASX:29M) has the Golden Grove mine in Western Australia and the Capricorn copper mine in Queensland, along with several promising new growth opportunities lined up. 29Metals focuses on copper production, though it also mines for zinc, gold and silver.

According to an October release from the company, production was weaker than expected at Golden Grove during the September quarter. However, the asset's quarter-on-quarter decline of about 10 percent was largely offset by a strong performance at Capricorn.

5. Copper Mountain Mining

Market cap: AU$804.96 million; current share price: AU$3.81

Copper Mountain Mining (ASX:C6C) is a Canadian and Australian copper miner, with its flagship Copper Mountain operation in British Columbia, Canada, and its Eva and Cameron copper projects in Queensland, Australia.

In the third quarter, Copper Mountain Mining reported total output of 22.4 million pounds of copper at its Copper Mountain mine, representing a 12.1 percent quarter-over-quarter decline in production. The company still reported positive cash flow, with strong construction and exploration gains made at its Eva and Cameron projects.

This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2018.

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

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