Tuesday 20th March 2018

Resource Clips

Posts tagged ‘graphite’

Visual Capitalist and VRIC 2018 look at the raw materials that fuel the green revolution

January 10th, 2018

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | January 10, 2018


Records for renewable energy consumption were smashed around the world in 2017.

Looking at national and state grids, progress has been extremely impressive. In Costa Rica, for example, renewable energy supplied five million people with all of their electricity needs for a stretch of 300 consecutive days. Meanwhile, the UK broke 13 green energy records in 2017 alone, and California’s largest grid operator announced it got 67.2% of its energy from renewables (excluding hydro) on May 13, 2017.

The corporate front also looks promising and Google has led the way by buying 536 MW of wind power to offset 100% of the company’s electricity usage. This makes the tech giant the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable energy on the planet.

But while these examples are plentiful, this progress is only the tip of the iceberg—and green energy still represents a small but rapidly growing segment. For a full green shift to occur, we’ll need 10 times what we’re currently sourcing from renewables.

To do this, we will need to procure massive amounts of natural resources—they just won’t be the fossil fuels that we’re used to.

Green metals required

Today’s infographic comes from Cambridge House as a part of the lead-up to its flagship conference, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018.

A major theme of the conference is sustainable energy—and the math indeed makes it clear that to fully transition to a green economy, we’ll need vast amounts of metals like copper, silicon, aluminum, lithium, cobalt, rare earths and silver.

These metals and minerals are needed to generate, store and distribute green energy. Without them, the reality is that technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries, nuclear reactors and electric vehicles are simply not possible.

First principles

How do you get a Tesla to drive over 300 miles (480 kilometres) on just one charge?

Here’s what you need: a lightweight body, a powerful electric motor, a cutting-edge battery that can store energy efficiently and a lot of engineering prowess.

Putting the engineering aside, all of these things need special metals to work. For the lightweight body, aluminum is being substituted for steel. For the electric motor, Tesla is using AC induction motors (Models S and X) that require large amounts of copper and aluminum. Meanwhile, Chevy Bolts and soon Tesla will use permanent magnet motors (in the Model 3) that use rare earths like neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium.

The batteries, as we’ve shown in our five-part Battery Series, are a whole other supply chain challenge. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs need lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and many other metals or minerals to function. Each Tesla battery, by the way, weighs about 1,200 pounds (540 kilograms) and makes up 25% of the total mass of the car.

While EVs are a topic we’ve studied in depth, the same principles apply for solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, grid-scale energy storage solutions or anything else we need to secure a sustainable future. Solar panels need silicon and silver, while wind turbines need rare earths, steel and aluminum.

Even nuclear, which is the safest energy type by deaths per TWh and generates barely any emissions, needs uranium in order to generate power.

The pace of progress

The green revolution is happening at breakneck speed—and new records will continue to be set each year.

Over $200 billion was invested into renewables in 2016 and more net renewable capacity was added than coal and gas put together:

Power Type Net Global Capacity Added (2016)
Renewable (excl. large hydro) 138 GW
Coal 54 GW
Gas 37 GW
Large hydro 15 GW
Nuclear 10 GW
Other flexible capacity 5 GW

The numbers suggest that this is only the start of the green revolution.

However, to fully work our way off of fossil fuels, we will need to procure large amounts of the metals that make sustainable energy possible.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018 takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West from January 21 to 22. Click here for more details and free registration.

Copper crusader

December 29th, 2017

Gianni Kovacevic sees even greater price potential for the conductive commodity

by Greg Klein

Evangelist he may be, but Gianni Kovacevic’s hardly a voice crying in the wilderness. His favourite metal displayed stellar performance last year, reaching more peaks than valleys as it climbed from about $2.50 to nearly $3.30 a pound. But Kovacevic believes copper has a long way to go yet. That will be a function of necessity as the metal shows “the strongest demand growth of any of the major commodities.” Especially persuasive in his optimism, Kovacevic brings his message to the 2018 Vancouver Resource Investment Conference on January 21 and 22.

Gianni Kovacevic sees even greater price potential for the conductive commodity

Increasing copper demand will unlock
lower-grade resources, says Kovacevic.

As a researcher, commentator and investor who’s also the CEO/chairperson of CopperBank Resources CSE:CBK, co-founder of CO2 Master Solutions Partnership and author of My Electrician Drives a Porsche, he brings new approaches that link topics of energy demand, commodity supply and environmental stewardship.

Kovacevic sees a new paradigm driving copper’s future. “The invisible hand in commodities during the last cycle was China,” he says. “Its economic growth just came out of nowhere. This time the invisible hand is this pervasive use of copper in everything that’s electrified. That means even the smallest village in Africa, which per capita has negligible copper consumption, is becoming a line item. When you create, transfer and utilize greener and cleaner energy, it takes more copper by a power of magnitude. For example to establish a megawatt of windpower it takes five times more copper than it does a megawatt of conventional thermal-generated energy.”

Then there’s the battery-powered revolution and the attention it’s brought to lithium, cobalt and graphite. Saying “I like anything in electric metals,” Kovacevic stresses the importance of nickel as well. Still, “copper wins because the interconnectivity will always be copper and copper plays a role in each battery as well.”

That leads to a supply problem that can have only one solution. “I believe we’re going to have to make uneconomic deposits economic. And there’s only one way to do that—with a higher copper price.”

With no foreseeable hope of a copper mining “renaissance” comparable to the effect that fracking brought to oil and gas, the metal will simply require more money. “We’ve got the old legacy mines,” Kovacevic points out. “We’ve spent a lot of money on exploration in the last cycle and didn’t find a lot. What we do have is lower-grade resources. They are simply not economic at a low copper price.”

Gianni Kovacevic sees even greater price potential for the conductive commodity

Kovacevic: Electrical generation, storage and
connectivity put copper at the top of energy metals.

Apart from diminishing grades, the business of putting new mines into operation is “taking longer with water, electricity and permitting issues, and it’s getting into funkier places,” he continues. “The Elliott Wave [technical/fundamental analysis] on copper is $7.50 a pound. I find that very interesting. All the buy-out action in the copper space happened for the most part between 2006 and 2012. The mean price for copper during that time was about $3.50 a pound. The all-time high was about $4.50 for a short while, but the mean was $3.50.”

Copper’s 2017 performance makes that figure look viable again. Kovacevic, however, cites analysis from BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP stating that 75% of future projects will require more than $3.50. “Could we see a scenario in which the copper price goes past the old all-time high and stays there for a while? And will the buy-outs in the next wave, if they occur, be higher on average than those in the previous 2006-to-2012 cycle? I believe the answer will be yes. But if you look at the average grade that went through the top 15 copper producers’ mills in 2010, it was 1.2% copper. In 2016 it was 0.72% copper. So if you were mining 30 million tonnes a year, now you have to mine 40 or 45 million tonnes for the same metal yield. And without higher copper prices, that doesn’t make much of a business case.

“So the first question is, are we going to need more copper in the next five, 10, 15 years? The answer in my opinion is yes. In fact it has the strongest demand growth of any of the major commodities. And where will that copper come from? Well, it’s going to come from a mix of places but we’ll have to make these projects economic. That should bode well for people who have invested in the copper junior space.”

Addressing the topic of how investors might look at the energy revolution in 2018 and beyond, Kovacevic speaks at the 2018 Vancouver Resource Investment Conference, to be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre West from January 21 to 22. Click here for more details and free registration.

Critical attention

December 21st, 2017

The U.S. embarks on a national strategy of greater self-reliance for critical minerals

by Greg Klein

A geopolitical absurdity on par with some aspects of Dr. Strangelove and Catch 22 can’t be reduced simply through an executive order from the U.S. president. But an executive order from the U.S. president doesn’t hurt. On December 20 Donald Trump called for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” The move came one day after the U.S. Geological Survey released the first comprehensive update on the subject since 1973, taking a thorough look—nearly 900-pages thorough—at commodities vital to our neighbour’s, and ultimately the West’s, well-being.

U.S. president Trump calls for a national strategy to reduce foreign dependence on critical minerals

The U.S. 5th Security Forces Squadron takes part in a
September exercise at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
(Photo: Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong/U.S. Air Force)

The study, Critical Mineral Resources of the United States, details 23 commodities deemed crucial due to their possibility of supply disruption with serious consequences. Many of them come primarily from China. Others originate in unstable countries or countries with a dangerous near-monopoly. For several minerals, the U.S. imports its entire supply.

They’re necessary for medicine, clean energy, transportation and electronics but maybe most worrisome, for national security. That last point prompted comments from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, whose jurisdiction includes the USGS. He formerly spent 23 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer.

“I commend the team of scientists at USGS for the extensive work put into the report, but the findings are shocking,” he stated. “The fact that previous administrations allowed the United States to become reliant on foreign nations, including our competitors and adversaries, for minerals that are so strategically important to our security and economy is deeply troubling. As both a former military commander and geologist, I know the very real national security risk of relying on foreign nations for what the military needs to keep our soldiers and our homeland safe.”

Trump acknowledged a number of domestic roadblocks to production “despite the presence of significant deposits of some of these minerals across the United States.” Among the challenges, he lists “a lack of comprehensive, machine-readable data concerning topographical, geological and geophysical surveys; permitting delays; and the potential for protracted litigation regarding permits that are issued.”

[Trump’s order also calls for] options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners.

Trump ordered a national strategy to be outlined within six months. Topics will include recycling and reprocessing critical minerals, finding alternatives, making improved geoscientific data available to the private sector, providing greater land access to potential resources, streamlining reviews and, not to leave out America’s friends, “options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners.”

Apart from economic benefits, such measures would “enhance the technological superiority and readiness of our armed forces, which are among the nation’s most significant consumers of critical minerals.”

In fact the USGS report finds several significant uses for most of the periodic table’s 92 naturally occurring elements. A single computer chip requires well over half of the table. Industrialization, technological progress and rising standards of living have helped bring about an all-time high in minerals demand that’s expected to keep increasing, according to the study.

“For instance, in the 1970s rare earth elements had few uses outside of some specialty fields, and were produced mostly in the United States. Today, rare earth elements are integral to nearly all high-end electronics and are produced almost entirely in China.”

The USGS tracks 88 minerals regularly but also works with the country’s Defense Logistics Agency on a watch list of about 160 minerals crucial to national security. This week’s USGS study deems the critical 23 as follows:

  • antimony
  • barite
  • beryllium
  • cobalt
  • fluorite or fluorspar
  • gallium
  • germanium
  • graphite
  • hafnium
  • indium
  • lithium
  • manganese
  • niobium
  • platinum group elements
  • rare earth elements
  • rhenium
  • selenium
  • tantalum
  • tellurium
  • tin
  • titanium
  • vanadium
  • zirconium

A January 2017 USGS report listed 20 minerals for which the U.S. imports 100% of its supply. Several of the above critical minerals were included: fluorspar, gallium, graphite, indium, manganese, niobium, rare earths, tantalum and vanadium.

This comprehensive work follows related USGS reports released in April, including a breakdown of smartphone ingredients to illustrate the range of countries and often precarious supply chains that supply those materials. That report quoted Larry Meinert of the USGS saying, “With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever.”

As both a former military commander and geologist, I know the very real national security risk of relying on foreign nations for what the military needs to keep our soldiers and our homeland safe.—Ryan Zinke,
U.S. Secretary of the Interior

David S. Abraham has been a prominent advocate of a rare minerals strategy for Western countries. But in an e-mail to the Washington Post, the author of The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age warned that Trump’s action could trigger a partisan battle. He told the Post that Republicans tend to use the issue to loosen mining restrictions while Democrats focus on “building up human capacity to develop supply chains rather than the resources themselves.”

Excessive and redundant permitting procedures came under criticism in a Hill op-ed published a few days earlier. Jeff Green, a Washington D.C.-based defence lobbyist and advocate of increased American self-reliance for critical commodities, argued that streamlining would comprise “a positive first step toward strengthening our economy and our military for years to come.”

In a bill presented to U.S. Congress last March, Rep. Duncan Hunter proposed incentives for developing domestic resources and supply chains for critical minerals. His METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security) has been in committee since.

Speaking to ResourceClips.com at the time, Abraham doubted the success of Hunter’s bill, while Green spoke of “a totally different dynamic” in the current administration, showing willingness to “invest in America to protect our national security and grow our manufacturing base.”

Update: Read about Jeff Green’s response to the U.S. national strategy.

“Shocking” USGS report details 23 minerals critical to America’s economy and security

December 19th, 2017

This story has been expanded and moved here.

Visual Capitalist: Nickel, secret driver of the battery revolution

October 30th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 30, 2017

Nickel, the secret driver of the battery revolution


Commodity markets are being turned upside down by the EV revolution.

But while lithium and cobalt deservedly get a lot of the press, there is another metal that will also be changed forever by increasing penetration rates of EVs in the automobile market: nickel.

This infographic comes to us from North American Nickel TSXV:NAN and it dives into nickel’s rapidly increasing role in lithium-ion battery chemistries, as well as interesting developments on the supply end of the spectrum.

Nickel’s vital role

Our cells should be called nickel-graphite, because primarily the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite with silicon oxide.—Elon Musk,
Tesla CEO and co-founder

Nickel’s role in lithium-ion batteries may be under-appreciated for now, but certainly one person familiar with the situation has been vocal about the metal’s importance.

Indeed, nickel is the most important metal by mass in the lithium-ion battery cathodes used by EV manufacturers—it makes up about 80% of an NCA cathode and about one-third of NMC or LMO-NMC cathodes. More importantly, as battery formulations evolve, it’s expected that we’ll use more nickel, not less.

According to UBS, in its recent report on tearing down a Chevy Bolt, here is how NMC cathodes are expected to evolve:

Cathode Year Nickel Manganese Cobalt
NMC Present 33% 33% 33%
NMC 2018 60% 20% 20%
NMC 2020 80% 10% 10%

The end result? In time, nickel will make up 80% of the mass in both NCA and NMC cathodes, used by companies like Tesla and Chevrolet.

Impact on the nickel market

Nickel, which is primarily used for the production of stainless steel, is already one of the world’s most important metal markets, at over $20 billion in size. For this reason, how much the nickel market is affected by battery demand depends largely on EV penetration.

A shift of just 10% of the global car fleet to EVs would create demand for 400,000 tonnes of nickel, in a two-million-tonne market. Glencore sees nickel shortage as EV demand burgeons.—Ivan Glasenberg,
Glencore CEO

EVs currently constitute about 1% of auto demand—this translates to 70,000 tonnes of nickel demand, about 3% of the total market. However, as EV penetration goes up, nickel demand increases rapidly as well.

The supply kicker

Even though much more nickel will be needed for lithium-ion batteries, there is an interesting wrinkle in that equation: most nickel in the global supply chain is not actually suited for battery production.

Today’s nickel supply comes from two very different types of deposits:

  • Nickel laterites: Low-grade, bulk-tonnage deposits that make up 62.4% of current production

  • Nickel sulphides: Higher-grade, but rarer deposits that make up 37.5% of current production

Many laterite deposits are used to produce nickel pig iron and ferronickel, which are cheap inputs to make Chinese stainless steel. Meanwhile, nickel sulphide deposits are used to make nickel metal as well as nickel sulphate. The latter salt, nickel sulphate, is what’s used primarily for electroplating and lithium-ion cathode material, and less than 10% of nickel supply is in sulphate form.

Although the capacity to produce nickel sulphate is expanding rapidly, we cannot yet identify enough nickel sulphate capacity to feed the projected battery forecasts.—Wood Mackenzie

Not surprisingly, major mining companies see this as an opportunity. In August 2017, mining giant BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP announced it would invest $43.2 million to build the world’s biggest nickel sulphate plant in Australia.

But even investments like this may not be enough to capture rising demand for nickel sulphate.

Although the capacity to produce nickel sulphate is expanding rapidly, we cannot yet identify enough nickel sulphate capacity to feed the projected battery forecasts.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Visual Capitalist: One chart shows EVs’ potential impact on commodities

September 15th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | September 15, 2017


One chart shows EVs’ potential impact on commodities

The Chart of the Week is a Friday feature from Visual Capitalist.


How demand could change in a 100% EV world

What would happen if you flipped a switch and suddenly every new car that came off assembly lines was electric?

It’s obviously a thought experiment, since right now EVs have close to just 1% market share worldwide. We’re still years away from EVs even hitting double-digit demand on a global basis, and the entire supply chain is built around the internal combustion engine, anyways.

At the same time, however, the scenario is interesting to consider. One recent projection, for example, put EVs at a 16% penetration by 2030 and then 51% by 2040. This could be conservative depending on the changing regulatory environment for manufacturers—after all, big markets like China, France and the UK have recently announced that they plan on banning gas-powered vehicles in the near future.

The thought experiment

We discovered this “100% EV world” thought experiment in a UBS report that everyone should read. As a part of their UBS Evidence Lab initiative, they tore down a Chevy Bolt to see exactly what is inside, and then had 39 of the bank’s analysts weigh in on the results.

After breaking down the metals and other materials used in the vehicle, they noticed a considerable amount of variance from what gets used in a standard gas-powered car. It wasn’t just the battery pack that made a difference—it was also the body and the permanent-magnet synchronous motor that had big implications.

As a part of their analysis, they extrapolated the data for a potential scenario where 100% of the world’s auto demand came from Chevy Bolts, instead of the current auto mix.

The implications

If global demand suddenly flipped in this fashion, here’s what would happen:

Material Demand increase Notes
Lithium 2,898% Needed in all lithium-ion batteries
Cobalt 1,928% Used in the Bolt’s NMC cathode
Rare Earths 655% Bolt uses neodymium in permanent magnet motor
Graphite 524% Used in the anode of lithium-ion batteries
Nickel 105% Used in the Bolt’s NMC cathode
Copper 22% Used in permanent magnet motor and wiring
Manganese 14% Used in the Bolt’s NMC cathode
Aluminum 13% Used to reduce weight of vehicle
Silicon 0% Bolt uses six to 10 times more semiconductors
Steel -1% Uses 7% less steel, but fairly minimal impact on market
PGMs -53% Catalytic converters not needed in EVs

Some caveats we think are worth noting:

The Bolt is not a Tesla

The Bolt uses an NMC cathode formulation (nickel, manganese and cobalt in a 1:1:1 ratio), versus Tesla vehicles which use NCA cathodes (nickel, cobalt and aluminum, in an estimated 16:3:1 ratio). Further, the Bolt uses a permanent-magnet synchronous motor, which is different from Tesla’s AC induction motor—the key difference being rare earth usage.

Big markets, small markets

Lithium, cobalt and graphite have tiny markets, and they will explode in size with any notable increase in EV demand. The nickel market, which is more than $20 billion per year, will also more than double in this scenario. It’s also worth noting that the Bolt uses low amounts of nickel in comparison to Tesla cathodes, which are 80% nickel.

Meanwhile, the 100% EV scenario barely impacts the steel market, which is monstrous to begin with. The same can be said for silicon, even though the Bolt uses six to 10 times more semiconductors than a regular car. The market for PGMs like platinum and palladium, however, gets decimated in this hypothetical scenario—that’s because their use as catalysts in combustion engines are a primary source of demand.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Update: Berkwood Resources continues to drill visible graphite in Quebec

August 31st, 2017

by Greg Klein | updated August 31, 2017

Assays have yet to arrive, but two holes reported last week and another five on August 31 have all produced near-surface core with visible graphite from Berkwood Resources’ (TSXV:BKR) Lac Gueret South project. The Phase I program calls for nine more shallow holes between about 60 and 120 metres in depth.

The company cautioned that visible indications don’t necessarily coincide with significant grades. But the results do justify continuing the program as planned, Berkwood stated.

Lac Gueret South borders the property hosting Mason Graphite’s (TSXV:LLG) high-grade graphite deposit. A 2014 airborne EM survey over Berkwood’s land found several zones of high conductivity.

Last week’s news from the property’s Site #1 reported 3.1 metres and 38.29 metres of visible graphite from BK1-01-17, along with 2.7 metres and 9.9 metres from BK1-02-17. The depths corresponded with electromagnetic conductors.

Berkwood Resources continues to drill visible graphite in Quebec

The first seven holes have brought observable
encouragement to Berkwood Resources’ Lac Gueret South.

Among new findings from Site #2, about 110 metres north, BK1-03-17 displayed the right stuff in seven intervals ranging between 1.46 metres and 28.2 metres in width.

Another Site #2 hole, BK1-04-17 showed graphite “continuously from 26.7 metres to 79.24 metres in variable amounts and styles,” Berkwood stated.

At Site #3, another 65 kilometres north, BK1-05-17 revealed graphite over four intervals with thicknesses between 3.2 metres and 14.12 metres. BK1-06-17 brought intervals of 13.22 metres and 1.14 metres.

About 87 metres east, BK1-07-17 on Site #4 showed 5.94 metres of graphite.

True widths weren’t provided.

The company holds two land parcels adjacent to the Mason property, Berkwood’s 100%-optioned, 5,714-hectare Lac Gueret South and the 100%-held, 2,052-hectare Lac Gueret East. The properties sit about three hours by road from the deep-sea port of Baie-Comeau.

Last month the company announced acquisition of the Delbreuil property in Quebec’s Abitibi, where an historic, non-43-101 sample assayed 1,290 ppm lithium and 126 ppm tantalum. Historic drill results also showed zinc, nickel, copper, silver and cobalt.

In another energy mineral acquisition last June, Berkwood announced an agreement to take on the Cobalt Ford property, located about four hours’ driving time from Baie-Comeau. Historic, non-43-101 work suggests prospectivity for base metals as well as cobalt.

This week the company closed private placements totalling $985,180.

Berkwood Resources intersects visible graphite as Quebec drilling continues

August 22nd, 2017

This story has been updated and moved here.

Berkwood Resources adds lithium to Quebec energy metals portfolio

July 11th, 2017

by Greg Klein | July 11, 2017

Seeing lithium potential in the gold-laden Abitibi, Berkwood Resources TSXV:BKR announced a 3,064-hectare acquisition called the Delbreuil project on July 11. Located in a region known for lithium showings, the property features spodumene-hosting pegmatites and historic lithium assays.

Berkwood Resources adds lithium to Quebec energy metals portfolio

One historic, non-43-101 result from a pegmatite sample graded 1,290 ppm lithium and 126 ppm tantalum. Historic drilling also brought results for zinc, nickel, copper, silver and cobalt. Satellite imagery suggests multiple outcrops have high potential for hosting additional pegmatite intrusions, the company added.

Now being planned is Delbreuil’s first lithium-specific program, with Phase I field work to include prospecting, mapping and till sampling.

Subject to approvals, Berkwood gets the road-accessible project for 2.1 million shares and $15,000.

The property would complement Berkwood’s portfolio of energy metals projects in Quebec. Last month the company announced an agreement to acquire the Cobalt Ford property in the infrastructure-rich Côte-Nord region. Previous work on the 2,176-hectare property revealed three base metals showings as well as historic, non-43-101 samples of 904 ppm and 1,480 ppm cobalt.

Last year’s work on the company’s Lac Gueret South graphite project, meanwhile, produced grab samples from Zone 1 averaging 4.99% carbon-as-graphite within a range of 0.04% to 36.3% Cgr in the vicinity of large geophysical anomalies. The property’s located about three hours by road from the city of Baie-Comeau.

Converging on batteries

April 23rd, 2017

Benchmark sees big investors wakening as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

by Greg Klein

It’s “a sign of the times that big investors with big money are starting to look at this space in a serious way,” Simon Moores declared. “We’re seeing it with lithium, that’s just starting. And I think we’re going to see it with the other raw materials as well.” To that he attributes the automotive, high-tech and energy sectors for their “convergence of three multi-trillion-dollar industries on batteries.”

Addressing a Vancouver audience on the April 21st inaugural stop of the third annual Benchmark Mineral Intelligence World Tour, he pointed out that cobalt and graphite have yet to match lithium for investors’ attention. But not even lithium has drawn the financing needed to maintain supply over the long term.

Benchmark sees investment lagging as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

While EVs still lead the battery-powered revolution, energy storage
will become more prominent after 2020, according to Simon Moores.

Back in 2006, batteries accounted for 22% of lithium demand. Ten years later the amount came to 42%. “We believe in 2020, 67% of lithium will be used for batteries.”

What’s now driving the battery market, almost literally, is electric vehicles. Energy storage will play a more prominent role from about 2020 onwards, he maintained.

He sees three cars in particular that should lead the trend: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. As consumers turn to pure electric vehicles with battery packs increasing capacity to the 60 to 70 kWh range and beyond, the industry will sell “hundreds of thousands of cars rather than tens of thousands… the era of the semi-mass market for EVs is beginning and it’s beginning now, this year.”

Last year’s lithium-ion market reached 70 GWh, Moores said. Forecasts for 2025 range from Bloomberg’s low of about 300 GWh to Goldman Sachs’ 440 GWh and a “pretty bullish” 530 GWh from Cairn Energy Research Advisors. As for Benchmark, “we’re at the lower end” with a base case of about 407 GWh.

“What does that mean for lithium demand? A lot of raw materials will be needed and the investment in that space is just starting.”

Lithium’s 2016 market came to about 80,000 tonnes. By 2020, demand will call for something like 180,000 to 190,000 tonnes. While battery-grade graphite demand amounted to about 100,000 tonnes last year, “by 2020, that will be just over 200,000 tonnes.” As for battery-grade cobalt, last year’s market came to just under 50,000 tonnes. “By 2020 it’s going to need to get to about 80,000 to 85,000.”

Benchmark sees investment lagging as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

Simon Moores: “No other mineral
out there has this kind of price profile.”

Investment so far favours lithium but for each of the three commodities, it’s “not enough, not for the long term,” he stressed.

Three years ago only two battery megafactories had been envisioned. Now in operation, under construction or being planned are 15, with the number expected to grow. “That’s going to be needed if we’re ever going to get anywhere near the forecast that everyone’s saying. Not just us, not just Bernstein or Goldman Sachs, everyone is saying significant growth is here but investment is needed.”

But although Tesla gets most of the headlines, “the new lithium-ion industry is a China-centric story.” The vast majority of megafactories are Chinese plants or joint ventures with Chinese entities operating in South Korea or Japan. “The majority of their product goes to China.”

At the end of last month lithium carbonate averaged $12,313 a tonne while lithium hydroxide averaged about $17,000. Spot deals in China, meanwhile, have surpassed $20,000.

That compares with prices between 2005 and 2008 of around $4,000 for lithium carbonate and $4,500 for lithium hydroxide. Only slightly higher were averages for 2010 to 2014. But prices spiked in 2015 and 2016. “Between now and 2020 we believe lithium carbonate will be in and around an average of $13,000 a tonne and lithium hydroxide will be closer to $18,000 a tonne.”

Those long-term averages “are important for people building mines and investing in this space.”

Except for 2010, lithium prices have shown 11 years of increases, corresponding with battery demand. “No other mineral out there has this kind of price profile.”

Moores sees no oversupply or price crash for lithium in the next five years. Spodumene-sourced lithium “will fill the short-term supply deficit and brines will help fill the longer-term supply deficit post-2019 and 2020,” he said. “Both are needed to have a strong, balanced industry in the future.”

Turning to graphite, he noted that batteries had zero effect on the market in 2006. By 2016 they accounted for 16% of demand. By 2020, that number should jump to 35%.

While flake graphite comprises the feedstock for most anode material, “really, the price you should look at is spherical graphite.” That’s fallen lately to about $2,800 a tonne.

Moores foresees better margins for companies producing uncoated spherical graphite. “The people who make the coated will also make good margins, but not as good as in the past. For this reason, and because battery buyers are becoming more powerful and there’s more competition in the space, we believe the coated spherical graphite price will actually fall in the long term average, but will still be between $8,000 and $12,000 a tonne. So there’s very high value and significant demand for this material.”

He also sees natural graphite increasing its anode market share over synthetic graphite. “That’s a cost issue primarily, but there are green issues too.”

Silicon, he added, “will play a part in anodes but it will be an additive, not a replacement.”

Speaking with ResourceClips.com after the event, Moores said Benchmark World Tour attendees differ by city. The Vancouver audience reflected the resource sector, as well as fund managers attracted by BMO Capital Markets’ sponsorship. Tokyo and Seoul events draw battery industry reps. Silicon Valley pulls in high-tech boffins.

This year’s tour currently has 15 cities scheduled with two more under consideration, he noted. That compares with eight locations on the first tour in 2015. Moores attributed the success to Benchmark’s access to pricing and other sensitive info, as well as Benchmark’s site visits. “We go to China and other countries and visit the mines,” he said. “Our travel budget is through the roof. We’re not desktop analysts.”