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Battery Minerals trends: Lithium leads Twitter mentions in Q1 2021

16 Apr 2021 (Last Updated April 16th, 2021 15:29)

Mining Technology lists the top five terms tweeted on battery minerals in Q1 2021, based on data from GlobalData’s Influencer Platform.

Battery Minerals trends: Lithium leads Twitter mentions in Q1 2021
Credit: Perthsnap, Shutterstock.com.

The top tweeted terms are the trending industry discussions happening on Twitter by key individuals (influencers) as tracked by the platform.

1. Lithium – 590 mentions

Increase in price of Lithium leading to battery shortage for Tesla, Australia’s lithium sector focussing on battery metals market and Rock Tech Lithium’s plans to build a refinery in Germany were some widely discussed topics in Q1 2021. Mitchell Smith, a battery minerals enthusiast, shared an article on Tesla facing battery shortage due to rising prices of battery minerals like lithium, cobalt and nickel.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, announced that the company did not accelerate production of its new vehicles such as the Semi Truck due to dearth of battery cells. The prices of battery raw materials rose steeply in December 2020, predominantly driven by the Chinese market demand, the article highlighted.

Haplo, a renewable energy investor, further, shared an article about Australian lithium industry keenly following the burgeoning battery metals market, as supply crunch is expected to lead to price increase. Lithium prices are expected to rise as the demand for batteries from China increases. Lithium demand globally is expected to hit 117,4000t in the next three years, according to a report from GlobalData, a data and analytics company. Many Australian lithium miners are encouraged by the growing lithium market with companies such as Core Lithium, Infinity Lithium and Lake Resources ramping up their lithium exploration activities, the article noted.

Another discussion related to lithium was shared by Ken Watson, a mining entrepreneur, about Canadian lithium miner Rock Tech Lithium’s plans to raise $400m for building a lithium smelter in Germany. Rock Tech is currently discussing possible locations for building the smelter, which is expected to commence operations in 2023. The ore for the new smelter will be sourced from Rock Tech’s spodumene mine located in Georgia Lake, Ontario. Rock Tech and new investors will contribute $150m in equity for the smelter, while the remaining $250m will be sourced through debt and subsidies, the article highlighted.

2. Electric Vehicles – 542 mentions

The need for the US to expand production of EV minerals, LG’s plans to increase battery capacity to meet EV demand and Jaguar’s plans to become fully electric were some extensively discussed topics in the first quarter. According to an article shared by Ernest Scheyder, a Reuters correspondent, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm called for improving the production of minerals used in EV manufacturing.

The US has been trying to reduce its dependence on China and other nations for automobile supply for a long time. The country still relies on China for minerals like lithium, rare earths and others used in EVs, which is not sustainable in the long run. Granholm also advised coal miners impacted by the decline in demand from the power sector to shift to EV mineral exploration.

Further, Stock Shaman, a battery metals expert, shared an article on South Korean chemical company LG Chem planning to invest $4.5bn in the US and employing 10,000 workers to increase its battery capacity. The company developed the expansion strategy over the last year to meet the rising demand for EVs across the US.

President Biden’s climate strategy, which focusses on expansion of consumer incentives for EVs and electrification of the government’s fleet, was another factor that influenced LG’s investment plan. The investment will enable LG to increase its production capacity in the US by 70GWh through 2025, the article noted.

Other discussions surrounding EVs included Jaguar’s plans to become an exclusive electric brand starting 2025, according to an article shared by MacroMuscle, a battery minerals trader. The Tata Motors group is making its Jaguar brand all-electric to meet its goal of becoming a net-zero-carbon company before 2039, which entails a major EV transition.

Tata will offer only electric models for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands by 2030. To facilitate the shift to electric cars, Jaguar and Land Rover will use three architectures. While one will be a pure-battery electric vehicle (BEV) platform dedicated to the Jaguar brand, the other two platforms will be exclusively for Land Rover, the article highlighted.

3. Nickel – 257 mentions

Silkroad’s agreement with Ganfeng Lithium to deliver nickel ore, Tsingshan’s deal to supply nickel matte and start of production at South African nickel sulphate refinery were some broadly discussed topics in Q1 2021. Caspar Rawles, head of price and data assessments at Benchmark Minerals, a price reporting agency, shared an article about nickel miner Silkroad Nickel signing a deal to supply nickel to battery maker Ganfeng Lithium. Silkroad will supply a minimum of 10Mt of nickel ore from its nickel hub at Morowali in Indonesia to Ganfeng. The agreement includes an option to expand the volume of nickel it receives by an extra 500,000tpa, the article highlighted.

Juan Carlos Zuleta, further, shared an article on Chinese nickel and steel producer Tsingshan signing deals with cobalt supplier Huayou Cobalt and battery materials manufacturer CNGR Advanced Material to supply nickel matte. Tsingshan will provide 100,000t of nickel matte, used in making batteries for EVs, to both the companies. It will supply 60,000t to Huayou, while CNGR will receive the remaining 40,000t starting from October 2021. Tsingshan began trial production of nickel matte in July 2020 to meet the rising demand for EV batteries, the article noted.

 

4. Cobalt – 185 mentions

First Cobalt’s plans to recycle batteries, Panasonic aiming to make cobalt-free battery and Glencore’s plans to supply ethically sourced cobalt to Norway’s FREYR were some trending topics discussed during the previous quarter. Ontario Mining Association, a body representing the region’s mining industry, shared an article about Canada-based cobalt company First Cobalt seeing potential for reprocessing batteries at its Temiskaming refinery.

The company started a study of black mass formed from the crushing and sieving of end of life lithium-ion batteries. The black mass contains metals like cobalt, nickel and copper, which can be used as feed for a refinery expansion project it is undertaking in Ontario. Construction work on refinery expansion will commence this year and improve the company’s production capacity, the article highlighted.

Further, Haplo shared an article on Panasonic’s plans to make cobalt-free battery, which is expected to be utilised for Tesla’s electric cars within the next two to three years. The cathode used for making lithium-ion batteries is totally made of cobalt. The Japanese electronics giant Panasonic decreased its cobalt content to a mere 5% over the last few years, which led to production complications.

Cutting down cobalt in manufacturing, however, reduced the negative impact of batteries on the environment apart from decreasing the overall cost of the battery. With batteries making up 30% to 40% of EV costs, this will help in reducing the overall prices of EVs, the article noted.

Another discussion surrounding cobalt was shared by mining.com, a mining and metal industry news portal, about Glencore, a multinational miner, signing a cobalt supply deal with Norwegian battery producer FREYR. Glencore will provide 3,700t of ethically sourced cobalt produced at its Nikkleverk facility in Norway to FREYR.

The cobalt will be a key component in FREYR’s lithium-ion batteries to be manufactured at its facilities in Norway. The agreement follows a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the two companies on research and development projects including battery recycling and artisanal cobalt mining, the article highlighted.

5. Copper – 117 mentions

Pop singer Akon’s mining company to fund copper mine in Congo and copper prices hitting a ten-year high were some popular topics discussed in Q1. According to an article shared by Andrew Miller, product director at Benchmark Minerals, White Waterfall, a US-based mining company, entered a joint venture agreement with Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned miner Sodimico to finance a copper and cobalt mine in the country. White Waterfall will provide a signing bonus of $2m and fund the feasibility study of the Kimono reserve in the Haut Katanga province of the country, the article highlighted.

Copper was also discussed in an article shared by Mitchell Smith about copper prices skyrocketing as the global economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. The copper price surpassed $9000 per tonne on the London Stock Exchange (LME) for the first time in almost a decade. The copper demand is projected to expand further as primary consumer China is resuming its business activity after the holiday season.

Another significant factor contributing to the rising copper demand is major economies transitioning to renewable energy and decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels. Goldman Sachs, a US-based financial services company, is projecting copper prices to hit $10,000 per tonne by next year, the article highlighted.