Mining and Heavy Industries

Lithium demand could fuel direct mine investment

Albemarle Lithium has awarded a contract to design and construct the pyromet, final product, and utility buildings for its new Lithium Hydroxide Production Plant in Kemerton, WA.

Companies manufacturing batteries for the growing electric vehicle and electronics markets could invest directly in mines, Pilbara Minerals managing director Ken Brinsden has reportedly said.

Lithium mining has been a hot topic of late. Rio Tinto recently announced an MoU with the Serbian Government to hasten the development of its Jadar deposit; US producer Albemarle approved a major expansion of its Greenbushes lithium mine in WA in March; and a number of junior miners have announced new deals with producers in recent months.

But Brinsden, who reportedly spoke with AFR at the Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, believes lithium producers will soon look to invest directly in mining projects, in an effort to secure supply of the highly sought-after product.

“I reckon it is starting to dawn on them that there could very well be a supply issue and I think they are going to have to start motivating some capital upstream to be able to establish that security in their supply chain,” Brinsden was quoted as saying.

Brinsden’s Pilbara Minerals is developing its Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project 120 kilometres from Port Hedland, which has an Indicated and Inferred Resource of 156.3 million tonnes grading 1.25% lithia, and 138ppm tantalite – translating to 1.57 million tonnes of lithium oxide and 39 million pounds of tantalite.

“If you think about the investment required downstream in battery making and car making capcity the capital being deployed is huge – billions and billions of dollars,” he continued, according to the report.

“So the idea they might spend a couple of hundred million at the raw material end to assist in security of supply makes a lot of sense.”

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