Gabonese Republic President visits key Republic of China mining projects
The President of the Gabonese Republic, His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba (www.Presidence-Gabon.ga), has completed a state visit to the People's Republic of China, from 6 to 9 December 2016, at the invitation of the Chinese President, His Excellency Xi Jinping. During the trip - Mr Bongo Ondimba's first outside of Africa following his re-election and also within the bilateral framework - the two heads of state discussed how to raise Chinese-Gabonese relations to the rank of 'comprehensive collaborative partnership'. This ambition was confirmed during discussions with the Premier of the State Council, Li Keqiang, and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Zhang Dejiang.
The agreements signed by the Gabonese and Chinese governments and the respective investment promotion organisations, ANPI and CCPIT, testify to the reality of the “boost” hoped for by Ali Bongo Ondimba. The time has come for Africa and Asia to see private investment flows accompany public initiatives. China, the world's second largest economic power, enjoys a presence in Gabon through around 30 companies. It has seen the volume of these trade exchanges increase five-fold in the last eight years to $1.77 billion. China is Gabon's third largest supplier, representing 8.6% of its import volume, and its top client, accounting for 14.2% of its exports.
At a gathering of more than 300 businessmen and women who came to celebrate Chinese-Gabonese cooperation with the backing of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the Ambassador of the Gabonese Republic in China, the President of the Gabonese Republic confirmed "the full disposition of Gabon to accommodate direct Chinese investments in agriculture, tourism, industry and banking, among other sectors. With regards to the mining sector, Gabon has two large projects, Belinga and Maboumine. Specifically regarding Belinga, where iron reserves are estimated at more than one billion tonnes, Gabon is seeking outstanding financial and technical Chinese partners for this large-scale project. The same is true for the polymetallic deposit of Maboumine, where the consortium comprised of the State of Gabon and the Eramet Group is looking for Chinese partners to help accelerate its operation. In terms of tourism, I am hoping to boost tourism exchanges between our countries. In this regard, I reaffirm to you my strong desire to see our governments reach an air transport agreement. I also invite Chinese banks to set up operations in Gabon or to acquire shares in existing banks."
The President of the Gabonese Republic concluded the state visit in Guangdong Province, which thanks to its special economic zones, has the 15th highest GDP in the world. During a direct exchange with Governer Zhu Xiaodan, the President invited Chinese businesses to come and work in Gabon, in particular in the local processing of raw materials, and reiterated the willingness of Gabon to accommodate a special economic zone dedicated to Chinese businesses.
Get in touch with our editor Dale Benton at [email protected]
Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand
Rising demand for lithium is stoking prices for the electric vehicle battery metal, fueling long-delayed expansions that still may not produce adequate supplies that automakers need to meet aggressive production plans.
Growing industry optimism from higher lithium prices is a change from last year when funding for mines and processing plants dried up during the pandemic.
Albemarle Corp, Livent Corp and other producers are scrambling to make more lithium, but some analysts worry the recent price jump will not spur a big enough expansion to meet a planned wave of new EV models by mid-decade.
Since January, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation Co, along with other automakers and battery parts manufacturers, have said they will spend billions of dollars on EV plants.
U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed spending $174bn to boost EV sales and infrastructure. The European Union has similar plans, part of a rush to catch up with global EV leader China.
Those moves have helped an index of lithium prices jump 59 percent since April 2020, according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a commodity pricing provider.
The rising demand “reflects what feels like a real and fundamental turning point in our industry,” said Paul Graves, chief executive of Livent Corp, which supplies Tesla Inc. On Monday, it said it would more than double its annual lithium production to 115,000 tonnes.
Graves warned, though, that “it will be a challenge for the lithium industry to produce sufficient qualified material in the near and medium term.”
Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to double its production capacity to 175,000 tonnes by the end of the year when two construction projects are complete. Albemarle's Q1 profit beat expectations thanks to rising lithium prices. Chile’s SQM, the No. 2 producer, said its goal to expand production of lithium carbonate by 71 percent to 120,000 tonnes should be complete by December.
Australia’s Orocobre is paying $1.4 billion for smaller rival Galaxy Resources, a strategy designed to boost scale and help it grow faster in regions closer to customers.
“The next few years are going to be critical in terms of whether there’s enough available lithium supply, and that’s why you’re starting to see commodity prices start to ramp,” said Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant.
The price gains helped Albemarle and other major producers, including China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co and SQM, post big gains in first-quarter profit and boost forecasts for the year.
Even China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp, saddled with debt due to years of low lithium prices, signaled that recovering demand should help it swing to a profit this year.
Forecasts call for demand for the white metals to surge from about 320,000 tonnes annually last year to more than 1 million tonnes annually by 2025, when many automakers plan to launch new EV fleets, according to Benchmark.
Still, demand is expected to outstrip supply in 2025 by more than 200,000 tonnes, so lithium prices may need to rise to encourage producers to build more mines. That could boost the prices consumers pay for EVs. “Companies across the lithium-ion supply chain are in the best position they’ve been in for the last 5 years,” said Pedro Palandrani of the Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF , which has doubled in value in the past year.