Australia’s Pilbara Mining sees continuing Li demand

  • : Battery materials, Metals
  • 24/04/19

Australian mining firm Pilbara Minerals' sees continuing lithium demand from its customers, while the firm continues to focus on cost optimisation.

Pilbara in March accepted a pre-auction offer of $1,106/dry metric tonne (dmt) for 5,000dmt of 5.5pc-grade lithium concentrate (spodumene) cif China. The price equates to approximately $1,200/dmt 6pc-grade lithium concentrate (spodumene) cif China, said Pilbara, which reflects the "ongoing demand and positive pricing for unallocated production volume".

"When you look at the past 60 days up to mid-April, the increases [in lithium prices] are fairly material," said the firm's managing director and chief executive Dale Henderson during the latest quarterly earnings call, adding that the recent uptick in lithium pricing is "comforting".

Argus-assessed prices for 6pc-grade lithium concentrate (spodumene) held stable at $1,100-1,200/t cif China on 16 April from a week earlier, rebounding from an all-time low of $850-1,050/t on 27 February. But a standoff has more recently formed between spodumene producers and lithium refineries, with the former maintaining their offer prices and consumers rejecting them.

Pilbara's spodumene realised price in January-March fell by 28pc on the quarter to $804/dry metric tonnes (dmt) cif China, despite the average grade of spodumene shipments rising by 0.1 percentage point to 5.3pc, which translates to $927/dmt for 6pc-grade lithium concentrate (spodumene). But the realised price during the quarter remained above its unit operating cost of $519/dmt cif China, which fell by 1pc on the quarter. Pilbara's ending cash balance came in at A$1.8bn ($1.15bn) as at 31 March, down from A$2.1bn a quarter earlier.

Output

Pilbara's output during January-March rose by 2pc on the quarter and by 21pc on the year to 179,000dmt. The output was propped up by a record monthly production of over 80,000dmt in March, partly because the P680 primary rejection facility reaching its nameplate production capacity in the second half of the quarter. But its chief operating officer Vince De Carolis said the peak performance should not be construed as an annualised run rate.

The firm said it is not stockpiling its production volume as it sees "ongoing customer demand". Pilbara's spodumene sales volumes rose by 3pc on the quarter and by 14pc on the year to 165,121dmt for an average 5.3pc grade.

Pilbara earlier in February defended its lithium downstream strategy and last month signed a binding agreement with Chinese refiner Ganfeng to carry out a joint feasibility study as they explore building a downstream conversion plant.

The two firms are exploring building a lithium hydroxide and/or lithium carbonate conversion plant with 32,000 t/yr of lithium carbonate equivalent capacity, alongside a potential intermediate lithium chemical facility in the country.


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24/05/23

Record-high EU antimony prices in 'uncharted territory'

Record-high EU antimony prices in 'uncharted territory'

London, 23 May (Argus) — European antimony prices hit fresh record highs this week after a prolonged period of supply constraints, and the latest hikes are drawing concern from even the most experienced traders as they navigate an increasingly opaque and speculative spot market. Prices for regulus grade II and trioxide in Europe were assessed at $18,500-19,500/t today, up by 14pc from a week ago and 55pc higher than this time last year, when prices were $12,000-12,400/t. Higher price indications are emerging daily, with some offers heard as high as $20,000/t in Rotterdam this week. The upswing has gathered pace significantly since 9 April, underpinned by depleting domestic resources in China and limited concentrate coming into Europe from various parts of the world. The continuing war in Myanmar (Burma) — a major source of antimony ore, most of which is exported to China — is exacerbating the supply tightness. Meanwhile, Oman-based strategic and precious metals firm SPMP suspended production at its Oman Antimony Roaster plant at the start of 2024 and is still not offering material, chief executive Joel Montgomery told Argus this week. The reasons for the suspension have not been disclosed. The status of Russian producer Polyus remains unclear, but the firm is not delivering as much raw material as in the past, Argus understands. And Tajikstan is currently producing more antimony ingot and selling less ore, according to market participants. "The market is becoming more opaque, with less information on the largest players," consultancy firm Hallgarten's principal and mining strategist, Christopher Ecclestone, told Argus . He added that supply of ore — or concentrate — is inelastic, as artisanal producers are currently operating at maximum capacity. On the demand side, China is directing significant volumes of antimony trioxide and antimony selenide toward its manufacturers of solar photovoltaic glass. With a container to Europe now costing around half a million dollars, traders have largely stepped back from the spot market, waiting for the current volatility to ease, and minimal stocks are available in Rotterdam for spot bookings. A significant volume of antimony arrived in Rotterdam recently and has already been locked into long-term contracts, but this has not stunted the rally, a market source told Argus . "Antimony is becoming a crazy dangerous market," a trader told Argus . It is hurting the industry, causing irreparable damage," he added, noting that consumers are getting hit by the higher prices and reduced availability. Antimony is largely used as a flame retardant in electrical and electronic equipment and textiles, alloys (lead-acid batteries), wires and cables, ceramics, and glass. With prices at record highs, market participants are looking for ways to ease the supply crunch or their consumption rates, but there are no easy options available. On the supply side, recycling streams are already heavily utilised after a major push in 2011, when prices hit their previous record high of around $17,100/t. Around a quarter of global antimony supply is currently produced through the recycling of antimony-bearing metal alloys. On the consumption side, demand from the flame-retardant sector fell by around 20pc in 2023 because of the weak macroeconomic environment, according to one buyer. It is difficult to develop alternative materials that can act as a substitute. Zinc borates and zinc stannates can sometimes substitute antimony trioxide, but only in specific formulations. Antimony substitutes can run into performance issues in various applications, especially in flame retardants because of the weakening of the polymer, sources said. "Antimony could be replaced in solar uses, but that is still a small portion of the market, even though it is growing," Ecclestone said. For now, speculation remains rife as to how high prices are likely to go before hitting a ceiling. "When the increase is supply driven, there is a moment when it falls [...] It cannot stick for too much longer," a trader said. Some sources expect the price rally to run out of steam in July-August because of the summer demand lull. Producers of flame-retardant products typically pause operations in June-July, and there could be a two-week period of maintenance, Argus understands. "The bubble is going to burst once it reaches $20,000/t," another trader estimated. By Cristina Belda Antimony trioxide Europe vs China $/t Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Indonesia’s nickel mining quotas fall short of demand


24/05/23
24/05/23

Indonesia’s nickel mining quotas fall short of demand

Singapore, 23 May (Argus) — Indonesia's ministry of energy and mineral resources has approved 204 nickel mining work plans for exploration and production, according to market participants, with a combined quota of 220.7mn t. The approved quotas, also known as RKAB work plans, allocated to the production segment is unknown. But participants said that the quotas may not be enough to meet expected demand this year because more than 90pc of the production RKABs are expected to have been approved. Nickel ore demand is forecast to reach 220mn t in 2024 based on projected nickel output, according to data compiled by Argus. Indonesia's nickel ore output was 175.6mn t in 2023. A large portion of the approvals was granted to the Morowali region, participants said, while the approval rates for RKABs in other regions, such as Sulawesi and Weda Bay, were significantly lower. This could potentially lead to a regional shortage of nickel ore. Nickel consumption is trending higher with an influx of overseas investment into Indonesia. Indian steel producer Jindal Stainless is planning a 1.2mn t/yr stainless steel melt shop , while Chinese battery metals and materials manufacturer Green Eco-Manufacture is building a 30,000 t/yr battery cathode precursor plant . But nickel intermediate supplies have been tight, dampened by tighter spot availability and lower term-contracted availability from Indonesia-based plants with a bearish nickel-cobalt-manganese battery precursor market. Civil unrest in New Caledonia has sparked concerns of a further tightening of supplies, pushing London Metal Exchange nickel prices on 20 May to their highest level in nine months at $21,625/t. Several businesses in the French-controlled territory's nickel value chain were disrupted during the riots, affecting production and transportation. Nickel prices will likely remain volatile in the coming months, depending on the approval rates of new RKABs, availability from swing suppliers such as New Caledonia and the growth rate of Chinese stainless steel and electric vehicle demand. By Sheih Li Wong Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Anglo American rejects BHP’s third takeover proposal


24/05/23
24/05/23

Anglo American rejects BHP’s third takeover proposal

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Alabama Demopolis lock reopens early


24/05/22
24/05/22

Alabama Demopolis lock reopens early

Houston, 22 May (Argus) — The failed Demopolis Lock, at the intersection of the Tombigbee Waterway and Black Warrior rivers in Alabama, has reopened two weeks earlier than projected. The lock reopened on 16 May, ahead of the scheduled 30 May opening . Vessels carrying commodities such as asphalt, coal, petcoke, metals and fertilizers have been able to pass through the lock without a long queue since the reopening, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. The lock had been closed since 16 January when the concrete sill underneath the lock doors failed. The lock was largely rebuilt over the ensuing four months Traffic that would typically pass through the lock was rerouted during the closure. Multiple steel mills in Alabama and Mississippi move some of their feedstock and finished product through the Demopolis lock. Those mills have 8.16mn short tons (st)/yr of flat, long, semifinished and pipe steel production capacity. By Meghan Yoyotte Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

ThyssenKrupp Schulte to close seven sites: sources


24/05/22
24/05/22

ThyssenKrupp Schulte to close seven sites: sources

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