EVs

  • Glencore halts production at world’s largest cobalt mine – where will prices go next?

    Glencore (LSE:GLEN) has confirmed plans to halt production at the world’s largest cobalt mine, potentially wiping out one-fifth of the world’s global supply of the critical battery metal. In a gloomy set of half-year results on Wednesday that saw it reveal a 90pc fall in net income, the major miner said it expects to transition its Mutanda mine in the DRC into temporary care and maintenance by year-end.

    Its decision reflects Mutanda’s ‘reduced economic viability’ in the face of rising regulatory costs in the DRC at the hands of a harsh new mining code and a significant fall in cobalt prices. After quadrupling in two years, cobalt prices have sunk to their lowest level since 2016 as producers have flooded the market with new supplies. Indeed, Glencore itself has reported a $350m non-cash loss from cobalt that it has mined but not been able to sell.

    As well as 199,000ts of copper, Mutanda produced more than 27,000ts of cobalt last year, making it one of the world’s largest sources of the metal – responsible for around 20pc of global supply.  Like many businesses operating in the sector, Glencore and its investors had hoped to ride the boom in electric vehicles (EVs), many of which are powered by batteries containing significant amounts of cobalt.

    The world’s fleet of EVs grew by 54pc to about 3.1m in 2017 and is expected to hit 125m by 2030, according to the IEA. JP Morgan forecasts that EVs will account for 30pc of all global vehicle sales 2025 – this compares to 1pc in 2016. As such, the market for cobalt is expected to double over the next four years alone and quadruple by 2028. To express this another way, 62pc of global cobalt demand is likely to come from battery manufacturers by 2020, up from 51pc in 2016 and 20pc in 2006.

    With this in mind, Glencore’s decision to cut supply at a time of low prices has been interpreted by some as a way of placing a floor under the flagging market and turn it around by eradicating its existing surplus. This would not be the first time the business has implemented such a tactic. As Bloomberg reports, the business slashed zinc production in late 2015 when prices were plunging in a bid to manufacture supply shortages. The metal responded with a 60pc price surge in 2016.

    As such, Glencore’s move has breathed life into many cobalt businesses, with shares in major Chinese cobalt companies rallying on Wednesday. Mitchell Smith, president of Global Energy Metals (TSX-V:GEMC), a firm developing a diversified portfolio of cobalt assets in stable jurisdictions, also noted the significance of Glencore’s decision to shutter Mutanda.

    ‘The shuttering of Glencore’s Mutanda Mine in the DRC in combination with the limited production numbers from the business’s Kamoto Copper Company drastically changes the supply outlook for cobalt in light of increased demand pressure from the automotive industry’s quest to go electric,’ he said. ‘Cobalt should definitely be on investor’s radar as mining companies in the Central African Copper-Cobalt belt begin to retaliate against the new mining code and push back to relax the significant taxation rates. It should be interesting to see how the price of cobalt reacts and where investors turn to get exposure to the critical mineral.’

    Wednesday’s boost to the cobalt market comes around a month after British scientists warned that if EVs replace the UK’s 31.5m cars by 2050, as per government plans, it will require twice the current annual global cobalt supply alone. In a letter to the country’s Committee on Climate Change, the team of scientists said replacing the vehicles will require 207,900ts of cobalt as well as 264,600ts of lithium carbonate and 2,362,500s of copper.

    Many believe that cobalt’s bear-run could soon come to an end.  For example, a recent report from FocusEconomics suggests that cobalt prices will hit $40,000 by mid-2020, before adding another $10,000 in 2021. As International Banker highlights, this bullish sentiment is being put down to a boost in global EV sales volumes.

    Likewise, Roskill Information Services has said: ‘With demand across most major end-use applications set to increase, and with demand from the battery sector expected to enjoy double-digit growth over the coming decade, the market is gearing itself up for a sustained period of unprecedented consumption growth.’

    Should EV uptake and cobalt demand continue to increase and supply constraints become more apparent, then it will be of significant benefit to businesses like Global Energy with exposure to the metal beyond the DRC.

    Author: Daniel Flynn

    The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, owns a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

    MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

     

     

  • Global Energy Metals highlights electrification of vehicles as a ‘once in a generation investment opportunity’

    Canadian cobalt developer Global Energy Metals (TSX.V:GEMC) issued a corporate update on Wednesday that saw it highlight the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) as ‘a once in a generation investment opportunity’.

    The business, which has built a portfolio of cobalt projects in stable jurisdictions, said the transportation and energy storage industries are set to undergo a ‘profound transformation’ over the coming decades. An ongoing shift from fossil-fuelled to electric-powered vehicles is being accelerated by considerable amounts of investment from businesses and consumers alike. According to Global Energy, cobalt is critical to the continuation of this trend, with demand expected to increase substantially due to its heavy use in lithium-ion batteries.

    However, the firm does not believe that supply will be able to keep up with this demand. This is because much of the world’s cobalt is sourced from the DRC- a nation known for its conflict, artisanal mining, and human rights violations. Likewise, cobalt is often mined as a byproduct, meaning supply is very much tied to conditions in the market for other metals such as nickel and copper.

    As such, Global Energy’s president and CEO Mitchell Smith said the raw materials and companies powering the shift towards the electrification of vehicles present ‘a once in a generation investment opportunity’, adding:

    ‘Lithium-ion batteries are at the heart of the current and future energy transition. Batteries that are powered by cobalt are critical to the future of the eMobility revolution. To get exposure to the battery and energy storage opportunity, maybe the biggest investment growth opportunity there is at the moment, one needs to look at the companies securing the metals critical to the space. Global Energy offers that exposure at a basement level entry cost.’

    Global Energy also provided a recap of its operations over the last six months. The period notably saw the firm take 100pc ownership of its flagship Millennium cobalt project in the Mount Isa region of Queensland, Australia. As part of the deal, the firm also took on two exploration assets called Mt. Dorothy and Cobalt Ridge, increasing its land position in Queensland considerably.

    Following the deal, which was completed with ASX-listed business Hammer Metals, Global Energy filed a technical report for Millennium highlights its upside opportunity and resource expansion potential. It also formed a partnership with industry peer Cobalt Blue Holdings to investigate the site’s cobalt, copper, and gold recovery potential in full. The results of this work are pending.

    Elsewhere, Global Energy has also taken significant steps forward at its Nevada-based cobalt, nickel, and copper properties Lovelock and Treasure Box. In early summer, the firm began an exploration program including airborne surveying, digital modelling, underground sampling and mapping, and fieldwork at the assets – which are located near Tesla’s Gigafactory.

    It also acquired the right to use technology owned by TSX-listed Canada Cobalt Works called RE-20X at the properties. This skips the normal smelting process to provide high recovery rates for cobalt, nickel, and copper to ultimately create battery-grade cobalt sulphate.

    Finally, the six-month period saw Global Energy attend several key industry events around the world in a bid to spread its message. These included the 2019 China Mining Summit and CRU Ryan’s Ferroalloys Conference.

    Author: Daniel Flynn

    The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, does not own a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, has been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

    MiningMaven Ltd is not responsible for its content or accuracy and does not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

  • Horizonte Minerals to push forward at Araguaia after completing $25m Orion royalty deal (HZM)

    Horizonte Minerals (LSE:HZM) sat at 4p on Monday morning after confirming the drawdown of $25m worth of funding towards its Araguaia ferronickel project in the Para state of Brazil.

    As announced in August, Orion Mine Finance has provided an upfront $25m cash payment to Horizonte in exchange for a 2.25pc royalty on Araguaia. This royalty applies only to the first 426,429ts of contained nickel within the ferronickel produced and sold at the asset. This volume is equivalent to the nickel production estimated over Araguaia’s life of mine as per its stage one feasibility study (FS).

    Orion is a significant player in the mining financing space, deploying around $1.5bn in royalties, streams, debt, and equity over the past three years alone. The non-dilutive funding it has provided to Horizonte will support the business in advancing pre-construction work streams at Araguaia.

    Araguaia is a Tier 1 mining project with a high-grade scalable resource, located south of the Carajás Mining District in the Pará State of north-east Brazil.  The area boasts plenty of well -developed infrastructure such as roads, rail and hydroelectric power.

    Horizonte’s stage one FS for the asset centres around an open-pit nickel laterite mining operation that delivers ore from several pits to a central processing facility. Here, a single line rotary kiln electric furnace (RKEF) extracts ferronickel, used in the stainless-steel industry, from Araguaia’s ore. After an initial ramp-up period, the project will reach full capacity of c.900,000ts of dry ore feed per year to produce 52,000ts of ferronickel containing 14,500ts of nickel annually. Over an initial 28-year mine life, the FS design generates free cash flows after taxation of $1.6bn returning an IRR of more 20pc against on an initial capital cost of $443m.

    On top of this, Araguaia has been designed to allow for a second RKEF process plant, funding through operational cash flow. This stage two expansion would double Araguaia’s ferronickel output, providing for a 26-year mine life generating cash flows after taxation of $2.6bn with an estimated NPV of $741m and an IRR of 23.8pc. All of these figures were reached using a conservative base case nickel price forecast of $14,000/t, well below the $16,462/t at which the metal presently sits.

    Monday’s news comes just days after Horizonte announced that a pre-feasibility study (PFS) confirmed its Vermelho project as a ‘large, high-grade resource, with a long mine life and low-cost source of nickel sulphate for the battery industry’.

    The work estimated that the property, also based in Para, would have a 38-year mine life generating total cash flows after tax of $7.3bn. Elsewhere, the PFS gave Vermelho – which produces nickel suitable for use in electric vehicle batteries- an IRR of 26pc and an estimated base case post-tax NPV of $1.7bn against an initial capital cost estimate of $642m. Finally, the work put Vermelho’s estimated annual production at 25,000ts of nickel and 1,250ts of cobalt when operating at full capacity. This translates into a cash cost of $8,020/t of nickel, defining the project as a low-cost producer.

    Author: Daniel Flynn

    The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, does not own a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, has been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

    MiningMaven Ltd is not responsible for its content or accuracy and does not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

  • REPORT: Horizonte Minerals- Accelerating plans to bring the Araguaia ferronickel project into production (HZM)

    Against a backdrop of surging nickel prices (up over 50% year-to-date), Horizonte Minerals (LSE:HZM) has made great progress at its wholly-owned Araguaia nickel project in Brazil over the course of 2019.

    Araguaia is a tier one mining asset with a high-grade, scalable resource that Horizonte plans to develop as Brazil’s next major source of production for ferronickel – an alloy that contains c.30pc nickel and c.70pc iron.

    With first production scheduled for 2022, MiningMaven has taken a deep dive into Araguaia, its background, and Horizonte’s two stage expansion plans as well as looking at why the project’s economics are so appealing.

    Please click here to read our report in full.

     

     

     

  • The major cobalt investment opportunity arising from the electric vehicle boom (GEMC)

    The global shift away from internal combustion engine-powered cars and towards electric vehicles (“EVs”) continues to accelerate at a record pace. With growing demand for the metals involved in the production of EV batteries being complemented in many cases by supply-side disruption, a major investment opportunity has arisen.

    According to the International Energy Agency (“IEA”), electric car usage has been soaring over the last decade, with global stock passing five million in 2018 – a 63% increase on the previous year. However, this annual growth rate looks set to accelerate further moving forward. The same organisation expects the number of EVs on the road to hit 125 million by 2030, while JP Morgan believes that EVs and hybrid electric vehicles will account for 30% of all vehicle sales by 2025.

    The reasons for this accelerating uptake are varied, encompassing improving technology, increasing environmental consciousness, and – critically – growing government support. Leaders around the world are setting ambitious targets and granting generous incentives to encourage the complete phase-out of traditional vehicles in favour of plug-in EVs in their respective nations. For example, the UK government’s current policy is to insist that, by 2040, all new cars and vans sold in the UK should be zero-emissions capable. Meanwhile, China aims to have five million EVs on the road by the end of 2020, increasing to over 80 million by 2030.

    However, when it comes to meeting these ambitious targets, getting the public on board is just one half of the battle. The other half is ensuring that the capacity exists to meet the demand for EVs and their related charging infrastructure – a burden shared by governments and automobile manufacturers alike.

    The wheels are already in motion here. Earlier this month, Canada and the US announced that they had finalised the Canada-US Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration. This aims to reduce both nations’ dependency on outside sources when it comes to sourcing “critical minerals” – many of which are required to build EV batteries – by securing supply chains. As well as the EV sector, this covers areas like manufacturing, communications, aerospace, and defence. Likewise, the US and China recently inked an initial trade deal that will boost America’s production of rare earth metals – critical to EV production because of their powerful magnetic properties.

    Waking up to change

    Key EV nations have woken up to the need to secure domestic energy metal supply, and these growing efforts throw yet more weight behind forecasts of a real explosion in uptake. The metals used in the production of these vehicles – particularly their batteries - are a clear beneficiary of this milestone. One of the most interesting is cobalt, a critical raw material for electric transport used in most common types of lithium-ion batteries.

    Alongside an anticipated surge in demand like many of its battery metal peers, cobalt is experiencing severe supply-side disruption. This comes almost entirely down to the fact that nearly two-thirds of the metal comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC").

    The cobalt industry in the DRC is well known for its vast artisanal mining contingent. Artisanal mining may be a vital source of income for many, but it also throws up many issues such as safety, child labour, and human rights abuses. These problems faced unprecedented levels of exposure last July when dozens of illegal miners were killed at Glencore’s Mutanda copper/cobalt mine after a wall collapsed. The firm subsequently shut the mine, effectively removing 20% of the world’s cobalt supply from the market. In the wake of this, several companies – including BMW and Apple – announced that they would stop buying cobalt from the DRC or at the very least insist on tighter regulations over working conditions.

    Meanwhile, some areas of the EV market are even looking at ways to cut the amount of cobalt used in the batteries powering their vehicles. Tesla boss Elon Musk has pledged to remove the mineral from the next generation of his company’s cars and has already reduced the amount used in Tesla batteries from 11 kilograms per vehicle to 4.5 kilograms. Likewise, global tech companies like South Korea’s SK Innovation and LG Chem and the UK’s Johnson Matthew are researching ways of making cobalt-free batteries.

    However, the reality is that removing cobalt from lithium-ion batteries is more easily said than done. Benchmark Minerals’ forecasts suggest that global demand for cobalt in 2029 will be 300,000 tonnes compared with an estimated 70,000 tonnes in 2019. Meanwhile, Tesla is thought to be inking a long-term contract with Glencore to ship cobalt to its new EV factor in Shanghai – suggesting the metal will remain key to the company’s expansion over the next few years at least.

    So, while the movement away from cobalt may one day occur, for the time being, it appears to remain merely an idea than a reality. This poses an interesting dynamic for the metal in which its usage hasto grow alongside accelerating EV adoption at the same time as industry participants are eschewing its key supplying nation. A clear beneficiary, therefore, appears to be companies with cobalt projects in the remaining 40% of supplying countries that are presumably giving rise to fewer ethical and jurisdictional issues than the DRC.

    One such example is Global Energy Metals (TSX-V:GEMC), a pure-play cobalt business building a portfolio of projects in stable jurisdictions such as Queensland in Australia, Nevada in the US, and Ontario in Canada. Chief executive Mitchell Smith explains that the company has positioned itself ahead of the curve when it comes to the global trend of moving away from areas such as the DRC to source increasing amounts of cobalt.

    As the global energy landscape evolves it is becoming much more mineral and metal intensive. Increasing the global production of batteries to electrify vehicles and power electronic devices will demand enormous quantities of critical minerals like cobalt. But the development of new mines, especially those in jurisdictionally safe mining districts in close proximity to refining capacity and end-use markets is not keeping pace,” he says.

    “This paves the way for Global Energy Metals to continue to grow its strategies on a number of verticals and be integrated into the battery economy through collaboration with fellow industry peers with the direction of building a stable supply chain and mineral independence.”

    Author: Daniel Flynn

    The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, does not a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

    MiningMaven.com and MiningMaven Ltd are not responsible for the article’s content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

     

  • Who will be the big winners from a nickel price boom? (HZM, POW, RGM)

    2019 was an exciting period for the nickel market, with increasing demand and supply disruption helping to drive the metal’s price higher at a time when other commodities trod water. Having started the year at $10,600/t (“per tonne”) on the London Metals Exchange (“LME”), the metal hit a high of $18,000/t in September and became one of the year’s strongest performing metals.

    The price of nickel subsequently dropped, hitting a low of $13,000/t in December. However, this pullback could have created an opportunity, and investors are now eagerly anticipating what might come in 2020 for the base metal.

    With many of the forces that propelled last year’s nickel rally still in place, we have taken a look at several of the London-listed firms that will benefit if the metal soars.

    Strong supply/demand dynamics

    On the demand side, stainless steel – which accounts for most of nickel’s global usage – experienced a surge during 2019.

    Meanwhile, the level of nickel required for electric vehicles (“EVs”) continued to grow, with more units being sold at the same time as critical developments in battery technology increased dependency on the base metal. According to the Nickel Institute, two of the most commonly used types of EV batteries, Nickel Cobalt Aluminium and Nickel Manganese Cobalt (“NMC”), are now made up of 80% and 33% nickel respectively. Meanwhile, newer formulations of NMC batteries are also approaching 80% nickel content, the body says.

    Elsewhere, nickel prices were bolstered by fears on the supply side. Indonesia, the world’s largest nickel producer, confirmed plans to bring forward a ban on the export of raw nickel ores from 2022 to January 2020. With Chinese producers stocking up on nickel inventories in anticipation of the ban, LME nickel warehouse stock levels have reportedly dropped by almost 50%. In October, Reuters reported that stocks had even fallen to 79,800 tonnes, their lowest value since January 2009.

    A secure setting for 2020

    Nickel currently sits at around $13,800/t, approximately 30% higher than it was a year ago in spite of the recent decline. This suggests that the bull market is still intact, with fundamental growth expected across core markets as supply concerns continue.

    From a demand perspective, the use of nickel in the stainless-steel sector is expected to continue to rise at a steady rate.

    But the real game-changer for the metal this year could be in EV space. According to Kitco, batteries (including those used to power laptops, phones, etc.) currently account for 5% of the global nickel market. However, with a record four million EV units slated for global sale over the next 12 months, this share could rise to 8% in 2020.

    With EV use set to grow by 30-40% annually for some years, the nickel market is likely to witness enduring change. Global demand is expected to rise from two million tonnes per annum, where it currently sits, to six million tonnes per annum by 2035. Batteries are expected to account for almost half of this demand growth.

    Meanwhile, nickel’s bleak supply outlook is also set to linger. Wood Mackenzie has estimated that Indonesia’s export ban will directly result in the loss of 190,000 metric tons of nickel globally by next year. Meanwhile, very few large-scale nickel projects have been developed in recent years. With the process of moving greenfield nickel assets from exploration through to production taking many years, many analysts believe that LME stocks will continue to fall as demand grows. This is expected to result in an annual average deficit of 60 kilotonnes of the metal through to 2027.

    Add the Federal Reserve’s dovish rate stance into the mix, and the combination of dwindling supply and rising demand could create an ideal setting for nickel explorers and producers globally.

    For example, Fastmarkets analysts forecast an average LME nickel cash price of $16,375/t in 2020- a considerable leap on the metal’s current position. Meanwhile, Wood Mackenzie expects nickel prices to continue breaking out beyond the current 12-month period, reaching $25,000/t by 2025 and $28,000/t by 2027.

    Who will be the big nickel winners?

    Several firms listed on London’s junior market are well primed to benefit from an increase in nickel prices throughout 2020.

    Horizonte Minerals (LSE:HZM) is one of the most likely candidates. The company wholly-owns the advanced Araguaia ferronickel project and the earlier-stage Vermelho nickel-cobalt asset to the south of the major Carajás mining district in Brazil.

    Horizonte has grown the resources of its assets by more than 800% in just seven years. It now plans to turn Araguaia into Brazil’s next major tier-one producing ferronickel mine by 2022.

    The firm recently entered a $25 million royalty agreement with Orion Mine Finance, providing the initial capital required to begin an early works programme at Araguaia and advance the project towards construction. At a nickel price of $14,000/t, the project has an estimated net present value (“NPV) of $741 million and an internal rate of return (“IRR”) of 23.8% (provided stage two expansion is completed).

    Applying recent nickel price highs of $16,000/t only serves to improve Araguaia’s economics. Under these conditions, the asset’s NPV rises to $1 billion while its IRR hits 30%. This would see the project generate free cash flow of $3.5bn. For perspective, Horizonte’s market cap currently sits at £51.8 million.

    Another London-based stock that could benefit from surging nickel prices is Power Metal Resources (LSE:POW). This company recently confirmed that it would earn-in to a 40% interest in the Molopo Farms Complex (“MFC”) nickel-copper-PGM (“platinum group metals”) project in Botswana, giving it an effective project interest of 50.96%.

    Following an airborne survey and follow-up groundwork in 2019, five targets have been selected at the MFC project as a focus for an initial drilling programme. Power Metal describes these targets as highly conductive bodies that “could potentially be host to massive nickel sulphides” due to their location, geology, and associated magnetic responses.

    Finally, a third London-listed firm operating in the nickel space is Regency Mines (LSE:RGM). Following a significant management shakeup last year in the wake of a challenging period, the organisation plans to push forward at its flagship, 50%-owned Mambare nickel-cobalt project in Papua New Guinea. Mambare covers 256 square kilometres and contains a compliant resource of 162.5 million tonnes at 0.94% nickel and 0.09% cobalt.

    A valuable investment opportunity

    The macro trade winds for the price of nickel look highly favourable. Given that Indonesia’s export ban will come into force imminently, supply is inevitably going to tighten this year. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve’s hesitancy around raising interest rates any further this year is likely to cause further dollar weakness- a generally bullish force for commodities.

    In parallel, 2020 is also expected to welcome in a great deal of EV market growth, putting further upward pressure on nickel prices. Following the nickel sell-off in the last quarter of last year, this could open up a valuable investment opportunity – especially given that stocks operating in the nickel market generally fell alongside the base metal. If the bullish outlook for nickel materialises into another price rally, it stands to reason stocks with nickel exposure will follow suit.

    Given the stage of Araguaia’s development and the potential for news flow from Vermelho, Horizonte Minerals offers low risk and potentially sizeable returns at 3.1p (as at 21 January 2020). Power Metal, on the other hand, is a racier option. However, after raising £700,000 in December, the organisation has the funding in place to deliver exploration progress.

    If looking to take a punt on nickel having another bumper year, these two stocks could present significant upside to your portfolio.

    Author: Daniel Flynn

     

    The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, does not a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

    MiningMaven.com and MiningMaven Ltd are not responsible for the article’s content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

  • Zinnwald CEO plans to take advantage of Europe’s urgent need for a lithium source closer to home

    It seems it’s only a matter of time before we’re all driving electric vehicles. BMW(ETR: BMW), for example, intends for half of its total sales to be EVs as soon as 2030.

    But before this can happen, there’s a major problem.

    In short, EVs need lithium to power their batteries, but because of the pandemic, lithium supply chains are a real liability.

    This is especially the case in Europe, where there are currently no operating lithium mines. In fact, the European Union recently added lithium to its critical materials list, stating its intent to reduce its dependence on imports for this crucial metal in battery manufacture.

    Though this all provides a challenge for the EV industry generally, it’s actually great news for a company called Zinnwald Lithium(LON: ZNWD | FRA: 7WW) and its CEO, Anton du Plessis.

    You see, du Plessis is aiming for Zinnwald to become one of the first companies to develop an operating lithium mine in Europe.

    The company is advancing the project, which is located in Dresden close to the heart of German electric vehicle manufacturing. And given the focus on securing more reliable supply chains—especially in Europe—the timing could hardly be better.

    To find out more, Mining Maven spoke to du Plessis about Zinnwald’s potentially game-changing project and how it could provide a reliable lithium supply for the continent.

    A much-needed alternative to fragile supply chains

    As pandemic control measures closed factories and shut down borders—especially links with China—the importance of local supply was emphasised.

    While some had been voicing concerns about the stability of these globe-spanning supply chains for years, that voice grew into a shout as many in Europe began to look around and see the scale of the problem.

    du Plessis explains:

    “I think what the pandemic kind of showed up was that these long global supply chains do represent risks, in that they can be disrupted relatively easily.”

    He goes on:

    “As things stand, there are no operating lithium mines in Europe. The EU wants to change that. They recognize that in an increasingly polarized world, it’s sensible not to be reliant on supply from very distant places.”

    Of course, it makes sense that Europe would want its own lithium supply, especially with the general push on the continent towards electrification.

    “Most countries,”du Plessis points out, "are committed to ending the sale of internal combustion engine cars from 2035”.

    He also explains that the EU has decided to commit €3.5 billion “to expand the battery industry in Europe”, with a portion “earmarked for the stimulation of raw material supply from within Europe”.

    And the fact is, when it comes to expanding the battery industry, according to du Plessis, to power EVs, lithium-ion batteries are the “most viable in the near and medium term.”

    Cutting carbon emissions

    By developing a lithium mine in Europe, Zinnwald will also enjoy the benefits of helping to cut carbon emissions. Don’t forget: the EU has set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

    But right now, Australia leads the world in lithium mining, where it’s made into a concentrate that’s then shipped to China. Once there, du Plessis explains:

    “…it’s converted to a battery grade product in what is typically quite a carbon intensive process, just because of the nature of energy sources in China, which are often heavily coal based.”

    Only after that can the battery grade product be shipped to Europe.

    So, the current process not only depends on this long, fragile supply chain but also generates a great deal of carbon in converting and shipping the lithium itself.

    “There’s a lot of transport miles in that whole setup. And if you could avoid that, obviously it’s better, especially given where international freight rates and international carbon prices are going,” says du Plessis.

    By developing its mine in Europe, then, Zinnwald Lithium offers the EU a way out of this carbon-intensive and inefficient system.

    An unbeatable location for EV production

    Not only is Zinnwald Lithium’s project in Europe, but as mentioned earlier, it’s specifically located in a German industrial powerhouse.

    The Zinnwald project—from which the company gets its name—is just 35 kilometres from Dresden on the border with the Czech Republic.

    Surrounded by a growing EV manufacturing hub, the project is in the perfect place to capitalise on the EV boom. Says du Plessis:

    “If you go and have a look at some of the announcements by Volkswagen in particular, they’re talking about 80% of their light passenger vehicle manufacturing being electric vehicles by 2030. To that end, they’ve already converted a number of their factories to making EVs.

    “And if you look at where those factories are, they surround our project: there’s one in Leipzig, there’s one in Zwickau, and there’s one in Czech Republic. If you drew a circle of 50 kilometres around our project, those plants are all are all there.”

    It’s a super smart location, especially as it’s also in the heart of Europe’s chemical industry too, making it easier to verify that the lithium end product is manufactured to a high standard and in an ethical manner.

    Indeed, it’s crucial in battery making to have a product at greater than 99.7% purity, with extremely low levels of deleterious elements. After all, as du Plessis points out:

    “If you’re a car maker making batteries, and the batteries are the most expensive part of your car, and you have to write an eight-year warranty on that battery, the last thing you want is for it to burst into flames. You really want to be able to be sure that the products you’re putting into that battery meet your spec and are consistent.”

    It’s why, he goes on to point out, it would be much more straightforward for EV makers to:

    “...be able to go down the road, where there is a local team, and make sure that it’s all meeting your specs”.

    Without doubt, the location is ideal and puts Zinnwald Lithium in an extremely strong position.

    A whole range of potential resources

    With the strong tailwind of a growing EV industry and the restrictive supply of lithium in Europe, Zinnwald Lithium’s future looks strong.

    And investors will be pleased to see that a definitive feasibility study (“DFS”) was already completed in May 2019 on the Zinnwald project, which suggested a €428 million net present value before tax with a total JORC resource of 757,144 tons of lithium-carbonate equivalent (“LCE”).

    That’s huge. But even then, additional licences have since increased the overall resource to more than 1 million tons of LCE.  

    Plus, the DFS’s mine life of 30 years equates to less than 50% of the current identified mineral resources. Indeed, du Plessis believes the company’s “large resource and long life”will be key to the project’s success.

    Furthermore, the company has moved on from exclusively focusing on lithium fluoride to “include a broader range of products and a few more mainstream products”. Primarily, this includes lithium hydroxide as that is the current focus of the European market. As du Plessis himself points out:

    “One of the benefits of this project is it can produce a range of products. It’s quite a flexible project in that sense as it can produce lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate, or lithium fluoride. But we will focus the study now on lithium hydroxide.”

    There’s no wonder then that the company plans to advance towards production as quickly as possible. Given the sheer number of factors in its favour, it makes sense to get this project active as soon as possible.

    “Lithium pricing has more than doubled since the beginning of this year,” explains du Plessis, and a ramp-up in lithium-ion battery production over time is likely to keep those prices high.

    With shares up almost 70% year-to-date, investors are clearly starting to realise Zinnwald Lithium is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the increasing demand for lithium that the EV industry is driving at pace.

    Author: Anna Farley

    The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, does not own a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

    MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

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