BHP Billiton Ditches Nickel West Sale
BHP Billiton will have an additional pillar for the time being.
The mining giant had been attempting to offload its Nickel West mining operation in Western Australia but has not been able to find a buyer at the right price. This year BHP announced its goal to focus solely on its four pillars—coal, copper, iron ore and petroleum—to maximise its profits. These four commodities accounted for nearly all of its profits in the last financial year. However, by not being able to sell Nickel West, disposing of its other noncore assets like aluminium and manganese will become more difficult.
“This review is now complete and the preferred option, the sale of the business, has not been achieved on an acceptable basis,” BHP said in an emailed statement. “At this time, Nickel West will remain in the BHP Billiton portfolio as a noncore asset and the company will continue to operate the business to realize its full value.”
“In terms of BHP cleaning up its structure, it’s a net negative they haven’t been able to execute a sale given a backdrop of a fairly buoyant nickel price,” said Tim Schroeders, a fund manager at Pengana Capital. “It raises some concerns over how far apart the buyer and seller were. The market isn’t going to become any easier as time ticks by.”
Experts do not believe that BHP will be able to add the nickel business back into the mix at this stage of the demerger. Nickel used to be one of the mining company’s worst-performing commodities, but a recent ban on mineral-ore exports from Indonesia drove prices up by nearly 40 percent the first half of this year.
BHP Billiton continues to unload billions of dollars of mining assets, a trend the company has stuck to over the past couple of years. A $US430 million sale of its Yeelirrie uranium deposit in the same region to CamecoCorp and a $US553 million sale of its diamond business to Dominion Diamond Corp. were the highlights of this move.
Information sourced from The Wall Street Journal.
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.