May 17, 2020

REPORT: Glencore to Shut Down South Africa Coal Mine, Lay Off Workers

Operations
Glencore
South Africa
Coal
Admin
2 min
REPORT: Glencore to Shut Down South Africa Coal Mine, Lay Off Workers
Swiss-based commodities trader Glencore PLC is expected to shut down some of its South African coal operations as global prices for coal continue to eva...

Swiss-based commodities trader Glencore PLC is expected to shut down some of its South African coal operations as global prices for coal continue to evaporate.

The company's coal subsidiary,Optimum Coal Mines, said in a statement it could reduce production by at least five million tons per year, which is half of the unit’s annual production rate, and lay off as many as 1,070 employees. The company has already informed South Africa’s mineral resources department and relevant unions of the potential closures.

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Glencore said underground coal mining operations will remain open, which supplies coal to Eskom’s Hendrina Power Station, and would consider reopening the mine if commodity prices improve. “Glencore continues to review all coal operations in the prevailing economic climate,” the company said in a statement.

The past year has seen coal prices take a pounding as China’s demand for the black gold has shriveled. Earlier this week, Anglo American announced it plans to sell some of its coal assets in Australia, including South Africa, to reduce capital expenditure.  

Optimum has already begun discussions with labor unions over the planned layoffs.

This is the second time in a month that Glencore has suspended operations at coal mines. In December, it temporally shut down all of its Australian coal mines.

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May 7, 2021

Lithium producers bullish as EV revolution ramps demand

Lithium
Electric Vehicles
Albemarle
SQM
3 min
Lithium producers are drawing optimism from rising prices for the electric vehicle battery metal

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.

Lithium

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.”

Albermarle

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.

Electric Vehicles

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.

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