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Lithium the New Gold

The global lithium market is going through extraordinary growth as the demand for electronic vehicles (EVs) continues to rise. In fact, it’s predicted that in 5 years almost every car manufacturer in the world will be planning, or in the process of producing EVs.

On the back of this demand is the increase in Lithium production, which is expected to double from 2015 to 2020 and the current price per metric tonne is $16,500 – more than three times the price it was ten years ago ($4400). 

Thanks to two new operations in WA, in December 2017 Australia overtook Chile as the biggest producer of Lithium in the world, increasing production by 34 percent between 2016 and 2017.

The state also has a large deposit of nickel which explains why there are plans for Australia to move from exporters to producers – creating an onshore lithium and nickel processing sector (see below), and perhaps one day developing a battery manufacturing industry.

Australia has both the resources and the skills to become producers of lithium-ion batteries, and with the lithium hydroxide phase being worth around 10 times the value of lithium as a raw concentrate, it’s understandable as to why Australia is pushing to be a producer in the industry.

At the Kalgoorlie Boulder 2018 Economic Development Conference earlier this month, Neometals (NMT) CEO Chris Reed said they have reached agreement with Kalgoorlie Boulder City Council to sub lease a 40- hectare site in a new industrial estate.

This estate will be utilised by Neometals who plan on building a Lithium Refinery which will create positions for more than 100 employees.

Reed said it will “be like when they put the nickel smelter there; there will be a new generation of jobs for the town of Kalgoorlie”.

This is fantastic news for the WA resources sector.