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China sweeps up lithium supplies in acquisition blitz

November 4, 2021

By Paul Homewood


No surprise there then!



Chinese companies are snatching up lithium projects worldwide, ensuring access to supplies of the metal amid worsening global shortages and surging prices.

The nation’s mining and battery companies acquired 6.4 million tonnes of lithium in reserves and resources in 2021, as of Oct. 18, nearly matching the 6.8 Mt of lithium acquired by all companies in 2020. China-based mining and battery giants have placed winning bids on five development-stage lithium projects valued at $1.58 billion, not including off-take and royalty deals, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Although China leads in global lithium processing and refining, it still sources the bulk of raw lithium products beyond its borders, including from Australia, Chile and Argentina. China’s buying spree, which stretches from Africa to South America, will safeguard access to lithium resources as COVID-19 disruptions and geopolitical tensions test the fragility of international supply chains. Global deficits in lithium supplies may also surge more than 60-fold to 950,000 tonnes in 2030, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, as rising sales of electric vehicles spur demand for the battery-making metal.

"Chinese companies have done the math and realized how much lithium they’re going to need to meet either battery or EV growth plans and have decided to try to secure that by going after some of the most promising junior projects in development," said Seth Goldstein, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar.

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According to BP, Lithium production amounts to about 90,000 tonnes pa, and global reserves stood at 19 million tonnes at the end of 2020.

  1. GeoffB permalink
    November 4, 2021 6:47 pm

    Don’t worry we got loads in Cornwall.
    If we are not allowed fracking, it is extremely unlikely that Cornwall will be allowed to become a Lithium wasteland.

    • jezburns permalink
      November 4, 2021 8:32 pm

      Oh no, but that’s the *good* kind of environmental vandalism..

  2. Penda100 permalink
    November 4, 2021 7:02 pm

    And the alarmists still think that EVs will get cheaper and cheaper. I suppose the Chinese could become very altruistic but…….

  3. Broadlands permalink
    November 4, 2021 7:09 pm

    Combine the increasing costs and shortages of lithium for batteries with the increasing costs and shortages of biofuels for transportation, and the all-electric vehicle market is in serious trouble. While Sleepy Joe is still asleep… Rip van Biden?

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 4, 2021 7:19 pm

    My bet is that there are many of the great and the good who have money in Chinese lithium companies. Poverty, after all, is for the little people.

    • Colin R Brooks AKA Dung permalink
      November 4, 2021 8:24 pm

      I agree Harry and it is not just Lithium, A Chinese state controlled company now owns Cuadrilla which has made the richest and largest shale gas deposit ever announced anywhere on the planet.
      The Chinese Offshore Oil Company set up and financed an offshore investment company in Hong Kong called Kerogen. Kerogen took a controlling interest in A J Lucas an old Australian mining company which owned Cuadrilla. The government refuse to comment.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        November 4, 2021 8:48 pm

        As my daughter would say (type): OMG! And Boris didn’t see this coming????? Or his ‘advisers’?

  5. Ron Arnett permalink
    November 4, 2021 7:34 pm

    Hmmm….. a million tonnes a year of Lithium needed when the e.v. utopia is here in eight years. A total of about twenty million tonnes available to be exploited. China already owns half of it and is moving to get control of more. This to support their existing dominance of production of lithium batteries of all types.

    The political leadership of every advanced economy (except China) talks a lot about how their own country will soon be the world’s leader in green technology. Their voters believe them.

    More hmmm……..

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 4, 2021 8:18 pm

      Tick, VG

  6. November 4, 2021 8:23 pm

    Production of 90,000 tonnes a year and reserves of 19 million tonnes. Doesn’t sound right to me, over 200 years of reserves? Do BP mean resources rather than reserves? There’s a huge difference, reserves being usually defined as economically mineable.

    • November 4, 2021 9:43 pm

      Not sure, but don’t forget demand is going to rise exponetially

    • Ian Johnson permalink
      November 5, 2021 9:18 am

      I have to say that 90000 tons does not seem a lot, considering the number of uses for lithium.

  7. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    November 4, 2021 10:44 pm

    All this begs the question – WHY ?

    Many countries cannot or will not generate sufficient electricity to power these things in vast quantities.

    Leading to the conclusion they are unnecessary except as yet another scam to follow the last one :-

  8. StephenP permalink
    November 5, 2021 8:03 am

    Yes, I can’t see how the world is going have enough lithium to produce all the EVs as well as building the battery storage that will supposedly fill the gaps when unreliables fail to produce during a wind drought and at night.

    • mothcatcher permalink
      November 5, 2021 9:02 am

      There won’t be a problem, other than short term. There’s plenty of Lithium in the world and the market will provide, as it always does. And the market rules in China these days at least as much as it does in the western world. None of the resources necessary for implementation of net zero will be limiting in the medium/long term.

      Who controls those resources, and the consequence of that ownership, is another matter. Looks like the west has, basically, given up.

  9. Colin permalink
    November 5, 2021 10:19 am

    One form of electric transport I could get behind is e bikes. I had hoped that the billions chucked into battery development by Tesla et al might result in affordable electric bikes for folks like me who can’t afford 700 or 800 on something that might go wrong, and there’s a lot of reports of e bike teething troubles on the Internet. I cycle 22 miles a day to and from my minimum wage job; the thing has to work! Now I learn that lithium prices are going through the roof, I’m guessing that a £200 bike battery will double in price, and the root cause is governments forced adoption of electric vehicles. Of course the savants who rule us give little thought to unintended consequences.

  10. Dave Andrews permalink
    November 5, 2021 5:39 pm

    Something that rarely gets mentioned is the fact that there are currently around 1.4 billion cars in the world today and this is projected to rise to 2 billion by 2050. The IEA in their latest update on EV’s said the total number in the world at the end of 2020 was 10.2m. Earlier this year in a report on’ The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions’ (May 2021) their best scenario was for c.72m EVs by 2040.

    Even if the roll out of EVs proceeds at a faster rate than the IEA forecasts it’s clear the overwhelming majority of cars in the world are not going to be EVs for the foreseeable future.

  11. markl permalink
    November 5, 2021 10:01 pm

    There are known, untapped, Lithium deposits around the world. it’s not how much there is but when will the market price it to be worth mining. Several minerals required for EVs are in the same category. We won’t run out for a long time but in the near term we’ll be priced out.

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