Albemarle to boost lithium extraction for green growth
Albemarle, the world’s biggest lithium producer, is aiming to boost extraction from the brine it pumps up from a Chilean salt flat in a sign of its confidence in the country and global demand for the battery metal.
Albemarle is introducing a way of extracting more of the lithium that’s normally captured in salts, thereby lifting yields to 80-85% from 50-55%, Chief Executive Officer Kent Masters said in an interview.
Lithium demand expected to triple thanks to the electric vehicle revolution
The U.S. firm and its biggest rival SQM are expanding in Chile’s giant Salar de Atacama to help meet an expected tripling of demand in an electric-vehicle revolution, reports Bloomberg.
At the same time, they’re attempting to limit how much brine they pump and fresh water they use amid growing environmental scrutiny by customers, communities and regulators in a global clean-energy push. The salt flat is in one of the driest places on Earth, where copper mines, communities and tourism also compete for water.
Albemarle investing $200mn in lithium yield project
With a budget of less than $200mn, the yield improvement project will take about 18 months to implement and another six months to start hitting sales.
“We’re always looking for ways to maximize our efficiencies at the Salar and at the conversion plants,” Masters said. “This one is actionable, it’s in process, we’re building it today.”
The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is proceeding with investments in Chile at a time when opposition politicians in the country call for a greater contribution from mining to fund social spending as well as an overhaul of water management and indigenous rights. Ahead of presidential elections in November, Chileans just chose an assembly to write a new constitution that’s comprised mainly of independents and left-wingers.
“The Salar yield is a decision we made now that tells you the confidence we have in Chile as a country,” Masters said. “We’ll know the direction and where things are going before we have to make another big investment decision in Chile.”
Albemarle doesn’t see a big risk for the lithium industry from proposed tax changes in Chile, and is always looking for ways to improve its sustainability “with or without pressure from the government,” he said.
Its Chilean investments are also supported by Albemarle’s upbeat outlook for lithium demand in both the short and long terms, with a recent industry oversupply episode unlikely to be repeated. The company’s looking for additional resources to satisfy demand beyond this decade.
“We feel good, we’re investing to keep up with that growth,” said Masters.
People Moves: Peter Cunningham appointed Rio Tinto CFO
Rio Tinto has appointed Peter Cunningham as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with immediate effect. Peter, who has been Interim Chief Financial Officer since 1 January 2021, will also join the Rio Tinto Board as an executive director at the same time.
Peter Cunningham appointed Rio Tinto CFO
Peter Cunningham was previously Group Controller and has held a number of senior financial and non-financial leadership positions across Rio Tinto in Australia and the UK. In a career spanning 28 years with Rio Tinto, he has held roles including Global Head of Health, Safety, Environment & Communities; Head of Energy and Climate Strategy; and Head of Investor Relations.
Prior to joining Rio Tinto, Peter qualified as a chartered accountant.
Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm commented: “I am delighted to confirm Peter in the role and, having worked closely with him for a number of years, I know he is the ideal person to be our Chief Financial Officer. His detailed knowledge of the company and of the financial and non-financial drivers of our industry will be invaluable as we continue to strengthen Rio Tinto.”
Rio Tinto Chairman Simon Thompson added: "I look forward to Peter joining the Rio Tinto Board and know from experience that his deep understanding of Rio Tinto and commitment to disciplined capital allocation will serve shareholders well and enrich our Board discussions.”
Rio Tinto aiming for net zero by 2050
Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15% reduction in absolute emissions and a 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.
Aluminium is found in everything from cars to phones. But one of the challenges of producing this essential material responsibly is finding ways to decarbonise the process.
Part of the reason is creating alumina – the main ingredient in aluminium – takes a lot of energy, which in turn creates greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will be essential to helping reduce emissions, but many haven’t been proven. And some not yet even discovered. Rio Tinto is partnering with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)to develop hydrogen energy options and make a positive step towards these goals.