Albemarle to expand Nevada lithium production facility
Albemarle Corporation, a leader in the global speciality chemicals industry, will expand capacity at the company’s lithium production facility in Silver Peak, Nevada.
It will also begin a program to evaluate clays and other available Nevada resources for the commercial production of lithium, a critical mineral in green mobility, and comes as North American automotive manufacturers are looking to reorganise their supply chain for greater security and sustainability.
As such, Albemarle’s investment in Silver Peak, which produces lithium from brine extracted from the Clayton Valley basin, will support this increased demand for domestic supply of lithium, the company says.
The company plans to invest between $30 million and $50 million starting this year, to double current production at the Nevada site by 2025, making full use of its brine water rights.
Additionally, the corporation aims to commence exploration of clay and evaluate technology in 2021 which could accelerate the viability of lithium production from clay resources in the region. It also looking at ways to optimise lithium extraction from its brine resources, including those in the Clayton Valley.
Through a Department of Energy-sponsored research project with Argonne National Laboratory, Albemarle it is investigating a process to streamline production of lithium hydroxide, which is principally used in EV batteries, from brine resources.
"As a leader in the lithium industry, our priority is to optimise our world-class resources and production. This includes Silver Peak, a site uniquely positioned as the only lithium-producing resource in the United States," says Eric Norris, Albemarle President, Lithium.
"This investment in domestic capacity shows that we are committed to looking at the many ways in which Silver Peak can provide domestic support for the growing EV market."
Albemarle's domestic resources also include the historic 800-acre Kings Mountain, N.C., lithium site, which is one of the richest spodumene ore deposits in the world and home to the company's global lithium technical centre and piloting operations, as well as lithium-containing brines in Arkansas.
Demand for lithium is expected to surge in coming years as EV adoption picks up pace globally. Tesla, the US-based electric vehicle manufacturer, says that its production increased by 39.6 percent year-on-year in 2020, while sales rose by around 35.9 percent over the same period.
Demand for lithium hydroxide is expected to increase as the development of high-performance batteries improves, and vehicles with a longer driving range are brough to market, experts say.
Copper, iron ore surge as Chinese investors unleash demand
The reopening of major industrial economies is sparking a surge across commodities markets from corn to lumber, with tin climbing above $30,000 a tonne for the first time since 2011 on Thursday.
In the wake of mounting evidence of inflation fuelled by higher raw materials prices, investors are also increasingly focused on when the U.S. Federal Reserve might start throttling back its emergency support.
Many banks say the rally has further to run, particularly for copper, which will benefit from rising investment in new energy sectors. Copper is at the highest in a decade, fueling bets it will rally further to take out the record set in February 2011. Steel demand is surging as economies chart a path back to growth just as the world’s biggest miners have been hampered by operational issues, tightening ore supply.
“The long-term prospects for metals prices are ‘too good’ and point to higher prices in the next few years,” said Commerzbank AG analyst Daniel Briesemann. “The decarbonization trends in many countries, which include switching to electric vehicles and expanding wind and solar power, are likely to generate additional demand for metals.”
Trading house Trafigura Group and several major Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. expect copper to extend gains.
Copper rose as much as 1.6% to $10,108.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange before trading at $10,080 as of 4:07 p.m. in London.
Benchmark spot iron ore prices rose to a record, while futures in Singapore and China climbed.
The boom comes as China’s steelmakers keep output rates above 1 billion tons a year, despite a swath of production curbs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and reining in supply. Instead, those measures have boosted steel prices and profitability at mills, allowing them to better accommodate higher iron ore costs.
Spot iron ore with 62% content hit $201.15 a ton on Thursday, according to Mysteel. Futures in Singapore jumped as much as 5.1% to $196.40 a ton, the highest since contracts were launched in 2013. In Dalian, prices closed 8.8% higher.
Erik Hedborg, Principal Analyst, Steel at CRU Group commented: “Recent production cuts in Tangshan have boosted demand for higher-quality ore and prompted mills to build iron ore inventories as their margins are on the rise. Iron ore producers are enjoying exceptionally high margins as well, around two thirds of seaborne supply only require prices of $50 /dmt to break even.”
Still, some analysts including Commerzbank’s Briesemann expect a short-term correction as metals become detached from fundamentals. There’s also a risk that China could engage in policies that may cool demand for iron ore and copper.
The metals rally has boosted concerns about short-term Chinese demand. Some manufacturers and end-users have been slowing production or pushing back delivery times after costs surged, while weaker-than-expected domestic consumption has opened the arbitrage window for exports.
Tin climbed as much as 2% to $30,280 a ton on the LME, boosted by rising orders for the soldering metal. Tin is at the highest since May 2011, with a 48% gain this year making it the best performing metal on the LME.