It is no surprise that today’s lithium miners are well placed to reap the benefits from the current and foreseeable shortfall in available lithium to keep up with the surging demand for electric vehicles, but investors are still watching the next cohort of producers with keen interest.
If you were to have sat in any session at Paydirt’s Battery Minerals Conference in Perth
this week, you would have likely heard at least one presenter quote something along the lines of “EVs are no longer a passing phase; they’re here to stay and demand for battery materials aren’t going anywhere but up”.
While speakers have presented their own versions of data suggesting the long-term ‘supply vs demand’ outlook for battery materials, it’s safe to say that the arrows were all pointing in the same direction.
Amongst the hopefuls is Tony Ottaviano-led Liontown Resources (ASX: LTR), which is eyeing a three-stage approach to becoming a major player in the lithium sector, with first production out of its Kathleen Valley Project in WA – where about half of the world’s total lithium is sourced – slated for 2024, while downstream expansion options are being pursued.
That first production would be achieved on the cusp of what the company foresees will be a dramatic ramp-up in global lithium supply deficits, with 292kt of the vital EV battery commodity to be unaccounted for by 2030.
“We continue to see strong push for demand, and we are seeing the lithium deficits getting even more significant as time moves on,” Mr Ottaviano said.
“Greenfields expansion and growth is tough, but we are well positioned at Liontown, given the work we have done and the position we are in both financially and physically, to be ready to take on the challenge in this market.
“If we look at the amount of metal and the various chemistries for the various batteries, we see lithium as a constant through all these variants. Therefore, we consider ourselves very safe from a substitution perspective.”
West Perth-based Lithium Energy (ASX: LEL), which holds a two-pronged portfolio of assets being the Solaroz lithium brine project in Argentina and the Burke graphite project in Queensland, is keeping a watchful eye on surging EV sales and is banking its business on the forecast trend of units sold globally to explode on an annual basis from 3 million in 2020 to 14 million in 2025 – and continue to climb.
“Over the last 18 months we have witnessed the growing awareness of the electrification of vehicles,” executive chairman William Johnson told delegates at Day 2 of the conference today.
“The reports and research that we’re seeing indicates that the demand for these critical minerals is going to increase fivefold or maybe even tenfold over the next decade.
“Everyone is convinced there is going to be a significant supply shortage of these minerals and we are going to do our best to see if we can help fill some of that supply gap.”