“Benchmark’s Lithium Carbonate Price EXW China (battery) has increased 313.33% since this time last year, reaching RMB 185,000/tonne ($28,675) in mid-October. Lithium carbonate prices are presently at all-time highs and set to continue on their upward trajectory as demand continues to outstrip supply.”- Battery Metals Supply Shortage – Miners Win, Lithium-Ion Battery Makers Lose
Auto and electronics manufacturers may find themselves facing the same raw materials pricing hikes that have plagued the construction sector throughout 2021. That is, when pandemic-induced shutdowns caused supply chain kinks that launched construction material prices skyward, especially lumber and steel. Prices rose so quickly that delivery costs outpaced bids in many cases.
“Price hikes and shortages of certain building materials are nothing new to the construction industry, but no one has seen inflation and scarcity of so many supplies that go into building a house or a business.” – Price Hikes, Supply Shortages Challenge Construction Industry
No industry is immune to the “perfect storm”, as inflation and scarcity of raw materials combined across the board have only increased under the questionable moves of the rush-to-green energy Biden administration.
With Red China’s real estate sector in the red, as we reported in our recent blog, the Chinese Communist Party isn’t hesitating to use whatever revenue-generating leverage they have with their resource-dependent trading partners around the world. China’s iron-fist control of an estimated 85-90% of the world’s lithium battery resources, processing, and Rare Earth Element production, made the record-setting price spikes we’re seeing now inevitable.
According to the November 2 report at NXTmine.com , China’s major lithium-ion battery makers have already written to customers to announce new pricing structures. Those suppliers are citing “the rise in cathode and anode raw material prices” not to mention higher costs in general, including expenses for non-active materials such as PVDF binder, foils, and energy.
That could cause problems for Elon Musk and Tesla, not to mention Jeff Bezos and Amazon, both of whom have ambitious EV production plans that total 200,000 lithium-dependent vehicles. Now, just as CEO Musk has pivoted Tesla manufacturing priorities from the US plant in Fremont, California to the Gigafactory in China, for the first time in Tesla Gigafactory history, battery prices are increasing as lithium and its derivative prices continue to soar off the charts.
“Benchmark’s Lithium Carbonate Price EXW China (battery) has increased 313.33% since this time last year, reaching RMB 185,000/tonne ($28,675) in mid-October. Lithium carbonate prices are presently at all-time highs and set to continue on their upward trajectory as demand continues to outstrip supply.”
As we’ve seen throughout 2021, the lithium rush is on and the mining industry is highly motivated to tap into new sources to extract the metal wherever it may be found. In 2021 we witnessed a 3-nation scramble of major mining players as the US, China, and Australia all made moves to tap into the huge rare earth mineral deposits in Greenland.
But lithium may be more common than we thought. Would you believe the oceans of the world as a source for high-purity lithium?
Extracting Lithium From Seawater
Seawater contains 5,000 times more lithium than what can be mined on land, but only at extremely low concentrations of about 0.2 parts per million (ppm).
Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have developed an electrochemical cell containing a ceramic membrane made from lithium lanthanum titanium oxide. The unique membrane’s crystal structure contains holes just wide enough to let lithium ions pass through while blocking larger metal ions. Mining.com reported on this exciting innovation last June of 2021 in this informative article.
Using seawater from the Red Sea the system operates at a minuscule voltage of just 3.25V. The 3-chambered extraction cell generates hydrogen gas at the cathode and chlorine gas at the anode. This drives lithium through the LLTO membrane, where it then accumulates in the side chamber. The lithium-enriched water becomes the feedstock for four more cycles of processing, to achieve the acceptable concentration of more than 9,000 ppm. The pH of the solution is further refined to deliver solid lithium phosphate that contains mere traces of other metal ions.
So how cost-effective is the seawater extraction process? According to the researchers the cell needs about $5 worth of electricity to extract 1 kilogram of lithium from seawater. But there’s also payback in the by-products. The value of hydrogen and chlorine produced by the cell would offset the cost of electric power, and residual seawater could also be used in desalination plants to provide fresh water.
That’s 4 revenue streams from one process, and even China can’t leverage the world’s supply of seawater.
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