SANTIAGO – Lithium prices aren’t going go back to the historic highs of recent years but won’t plummet to pre-boom levels either, according to the world’s third-largest producer of the mineral key to electric-vehicle batteries.
Prices have now stabilised after miners globally boosted production capacity to match soaring demand from automakers, Tianqi Lithium CEO Vivian Wu said on Monday. Orders for the soft, white mineral produced mainly in Chile and Australia remain solid, she said.
“In 2015, an explosive demand for EVs happened and that caused almost a supply shock" in the lithium market, Wu told reporters in Santiago. “A lot of new projects have now come into the industry and that adjustment has to most extent already happened."
Prices for Asian lithium carbonate have fallen more than 40% from a record reached in October 2017, to $12 625 a metric ton in May, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. The easing means some higher-cost greenfield projects that were viable a few months ago will now be challenged, Wu said. Prices are expected to remain at a level where strong players such as Tianqi will remain profitable, she said.
“Prices will not go back to the highest, crazy peak of the last few years," she said. “New supply will come, but only good-quality and lower-cost production will survive."