Ellie Saklatvala, Senior Editor — Nonferrous Metals, provides a bitesize overview of the key price movements that happened in Q1 and how supply and demand fundamentals are shaping up as we move through Q2.

Related news

Rare earths
24/06/24

Q&A: New DLE method seeks to access US lithium reserves

Q&A: New DLE method seeks to access US lithium reserves

London, 24 June (Argus) — Direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology has been around for a few years now, but several methods exist and are mine-specific. US-based Iliad technologies is attempting to find a universal method by which to extract lithium and export this technology to an increasingly diversified global lithium market. Argus spoke with Iliad chief executive Samuel Moore. Edited highlights follow: How does Iliad's DLE technology work? It is born out of Energy Source Minerals, which is a company that is developing a project in California on the Salton Sea. The genius of Iliad was really the need for technology that worked at high temperatures and could deal with the fluids coming up from the Salton Sea, and we decided there was not really anything on the market that was right for our project. It is based on absorption desorption, which is one of the longer-standing methods of DLE that I know of. It has been used for 30-plus years and in Argentina. What happens is that the lithium-bearing brine enters the system. The kinetics of the brine push the lithium into an absorbent material that is designed to capture the lithium and ignore everything else. It is almost the reverse of a filter. Everything else washes through the system and is injected back into the ground. Then we wash the lithium out of that absorbent material using just water. So we do not use any reagents, we do not use any acid, and we do not use any other harmful materials. It is a very clean system. We run a continuous process and smaller columns with a very clever valve that basically pumps the fluid through 30 different columns of absorbent. We work the absorbent continuously to take a stream of lithium chloride out of the back end. It means we use a lot less absorbent and a lot less water. Does Iliad technology work in different forms of brine, different from the geothermal brines in the Salton Sea? One of the myths of DLE is that you need a different solution for different clients. We do not think this is true. We have tested on more than 30 different lines. We have tested geothermal obviously, but we have tested salars [large brine fields] and in Smackover [lithium mining area in the US]. We have tested waters that come up with oil and gas. In different countries, we have a lot of data now and Iliad works universally with all of them. I don't think it is true to say that each different project requires a different technology. Our flavour of absorption desorption is very effective. We have tested brines with lithium of as low as 40 parts per million (ppm) and as high as up into the thousands. It works at both of these readings and at everything in between. We are really confident and comfortable that there are technologies out there that have universal application, and we are going to be one of those. Who could make use of this technology, and in what areas of the lithium sector? Our modern take on DLE unlocks resources that couldn't really be developed before. The traditional way to develop brine field lithium was with evaporation ponds in South America, but you get very large losses. You only get 40-50pc recovery when you do that, it takes a long time and the product quality is not there. So DLE allows a step change in performance than what is currently in the the industry and targets resources that are not really able to be targeted today. If you come back to the US, say the Smackover formation, you may get to process 204ppm of lithium. South America has 600ppm-plus of lithium, so DLE gets you lower. Then you get into the conversation around the geopolitics. Do I want to establish a lithium supply chain in the US, Europe and Canada — places that traditionally have not had one? I think DLE is going to be key to unlocking the domestic supply chain that the US government has clearly signalled is very important to it. We raised independent capital from Livent, now Arcadium Lithium. It was our cornerstone investor throughout that process. So it has taken a shareholding early, which is really interesting because it is the one industry participant that has done DLE for 30 years in Argentina already. How do lithium producers use DLE to reduce their impact on the environment? This will be the cleanest lithium you can produce — no question. Take our first project, for example. We are attached to the side of a geothermal power station. We capture the brine, so it comes to us hot. We capture the lithium using our method. Once the lithium has been removed, it goes back down the hole, in the same way that it does today. We use steam from the power station, and we use heat from the brine to do a lot of the processing. We use water to capture the lithium out of the absorbent material. We have no reagents and no harsh chemicals. [It is a] very low energy requirement. Compare this to hard rock mining, where you have a very large carbon footprint, a massive land footprint and then a huge amount of chemical use and the processing of that ore. You do not have evaporation ponds — once again, these leave a very large land footprint and incur very large water losses because you are evaporating the brine to the atmosphere to capture the salts left behind. So I mean, DLE — particularly really efficient DLE, like Iliad absorption desorption — will be the cleanest lithium you can get. By Thomas Kavanagh Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Find out more
Rare earths

Pilbara Minerals eyes more Pilgangoora lithium output


21/06/24
Rare earths
21/06/24

Pilbara Minerals eyes more Pilgangoora lithium output

Singapore, 21 June (Argus) — Australian mining firm Pilbara Minerals has started a feasibility study into raising spodumene production capacity at its Pilgangoora operations in Western Australia. The P2000 expansion project will more than double Pilgangoora's output capacity to over 2mn t/yr, the firm said today. Pilbara forecasts Pilgangoora's output to average around 1.9mn t/yr of 5.2pc grade spodumene in the first 10 years after the P2000 expansion is completed, with production starting from 2028, if it does go ahead. Pilbara estimates A$1.2bn ($798mn) of capital expenditure for the project, which includes building a new ore flotation plant but excludes the extra capital expenditure needed for the mine to support the expansion. The firm approached Australian federal government financing agencies for the project's funding, which it said provided non-binding letters of support for "up to A$400mn" after the initial engagement. "The timing of the P2000 Project will be subject to the successful outcome of the next level of feasibility study, project approvals and the market outlook at the time of the financial investment decision," said the firm. The feasibility study is expected to be completed in October-December 2025, but the firm remained cautious about assuring a final investment decision (FID). Any FID decision needs to come after the study outcome, said managing director and chief executive Dale Henderson. "That's more than a year away, which is frankly an eternity in the lithium industry." The P2000 project will come after the firm's P680 and P1000 projects, which Pilbara Minerals has decided to plough ahead with . The P680 and P1000 projects would raise Pilgangoora's output capacity to 1mn t/yr. The firm earlier this year defended its lithium downstream strategy and is exploring building a downstream conversion plant with Chinese refiner Ganfeng. By Joseph Ho Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Rare earths

EU proposed lithium toxic classification concerns ILiA


20/06/24
Rare earths
20/06/24

EU proposed lithium toxic classification concerns ILiA

London, 20 June (Argus) — The International Lithium Association (ILiA) has said it is "gravely concerned" about proposals made by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) regarding the potential classification of lithium products as toxic. ILiA has lobbied against the proposals privately for two years, but has now made its concerns public to ensure awareness of a potential problem for the development of a European lithium industry. ECHA's proposals would classify lithium carbonate, hydroxide and chloride as Toxic for Reproduction, Category 1a. Any resulting impact on the market could take up to two years to appear, leading to uncertainty for the nascent battery industry, ILiA told Argus . "In Europe, an incorrect classification which is too high would risk making EU member states less attractive compared to other countries for lithium mining and refining projects," an ILiA representative wrote in an article for the organisation's membership newsletter. "Opening a lithium mine, a lithium refinery or a battery production plant in the EU would be more burdensome, with additional safety measures and uncertainties on permitting." EU regulation is sometimes seen as the benchmark standard for the rest of the world, which means classification could impact other countries. But some countries disagree with the ECHA proposals, highlighted by a series of assessments and letters from Chile, Argentina, Australia, Canada and the UK, which ILiA provided to ECHA. "These opinions demonstrate that there is no global scientific agreement on the classification and that other countries might reach different conclusions… with possible repercussions on trade relations and access to lithium in Europe," an ILiA representative said. ILiA highlighted that some lithium projects in Europe have already been shelved for other reasons, with the US Inflation Reduction Act attracting investment away from the region and public protests halting lithium mines, as happened to UK-Australian firm Rio Tinto's Jadar project in Serbia. Having the capacity to refine lithium is "crucial" for recycling lithium and providing the materials needed to grow the European battery industry, ILiA said. By Thomas Kavanagh Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Rare earths

India approves funding for offshore wind projects


20/06/24
Rare earths
20/06/24

India approves funding for offshore wind projects

Mumbai, 20 June (Argus) — India's federal government cabinet has approved viability gap funding (VGF) for the installation and commissioning of 1GW of offshore wind projects in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu states. India's plans for offshore wind energy will increase short-term demand for rare earth permanent magnets and minor metals such as chromium, cobalt, manganese and molybdenum. The cabinet on 19 June approved VGF of 68.53bn rupees ($820mn) for installation and commissioning of 500MW of offshore wind projects each off the coast of northwest India's Gujarat and southeast India's Tamil Nadu. It also approved a Rs6bn grant for upgrading two ports to meet the logistics requirements for developing the projects. The VGF scheme aims to support infrastructure projects that are economically justified but fall marginally short of financial viability. The funding support from the government reduces the cost of power from offshore wind projects and make them viable for purchase by electricity distribution companies. India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy expects the commissioning of the 1GW wind projects to promote development of the offshore industry. It is targeting an initial 37GW of offshore wind power generation capacity with investment of about Rs4.5 trillion. Initial assessments by India's National Institute of Wind Energy for potential offshore zones for wind energy projects indicate the potential of 36GW of wind energy projects off Gujarat and about 35GW offshore Tamil Nadu. By Samil Surendran Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Rare earths

FAA, EASA probe Boeing, Airbus Ti parts


14/06/24
Rare earths
14/06/24

FAA, EASA probe Boeing, Airbus Ti parts

Houston, 14 June (Argus) — The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are investigating whether falsified documents were used to verify the authenticity of titanium used in parts manufactured by Spirit Aerosystems and others for Boeing and Airbus jets. The US probe arose after Boeing alerted the federal regulator that material was procured through a distributor "who may have falsified or provided incorrect records," the FAA told Argus . The FAA is looking into the scope and impact of the issue. The EASA was notified by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (Enac) of the issue and has subsequently started an investigation to determine if the traceability issue also has safety implications, an EASA spokesperson told Argus . There is currently no evidence of a safety issue in the fleet, it added, but it will investigate the root cause and monitor new developments. "This is about titanium that has entered the supply system via documents that have been counterfeited," a Spirit spokesperson told Argus . Boeing added that the issue affected some titanium shipments received by a "limited set of suppliers," including its fuselage maker Spirit, and relates to a "very small number of parts" on any of its aircraft. Boeing declined to specify on which programs and for what components the titanium in question was used, but it said the correct titanium alloy was used. Affected parts were produced from 2019-2023, Spirit said. Boeing is removing suspect parts on its planes before delivering them to customers for compliance purposes, but confirmed its in-service fleet is safe to operate based on an internal analysis, it said. Airbus confirmed the airworthiness of its A220 aircraft after conducting "numerous tests" on parts coming from the same source of supply, and said it is working in close collaboration with its supplier, an Airbus spokesperson told Argus . Spirit removed the units from production and performed over 1,000 tests to ensure the "mechanical and metallurgical properties" of the titanium continued to meet airworthiness standards. Spirit supplies an array of parts to Airbus and Boeing including fuselages, pylons, and wing structures. Titanium alloys are typically used in engine components such as turbines and compressor blades, landing gears and fasteners. Aerospace companies including Airbus and Boeing earlier this year formed a coalition to help prevent unauthorized parts from entering the supply chain. It followed actions taken by CFM International, and its parent companies GE Aerospace and Safran Aircraft Engines, last years in response to engine parts sold by British distributor AOG Technics with forged documents. By Alex Nicoll and Samuel Wood Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.