Lithium Producers Optimistic About Demand Despite Price Drop


The atmosphere at the Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials Conference in Las Vegas, the largest of its kind, was filled with cautious optimism. Participants expressed hope that the industry would be able to handle the anticipated surge in demand expected later this decade, driven by the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and battery storage technologies.

At a major industry conference this week, the world’s leading lithium producers expressed their long-term optimism about the demand for the metal essential for electric vehicle batteries despite a recent drastic drop in prices that led to layoffs and slowed expansions.

Originally a speciality metal used mainly in ceramics and pharmaceuticals, lithium has seen a rapid increase in demand over the past decade. However, an oversupply from China and slower-than-expected adoption rates of electric vehicles have caused lithium prices to tumble by over 80% in the last year. Despite this, the atmosphere at the Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials Conference in Las Vegas, the largest globally, was cautiously hopeful. Attendees believed the industry could handle the expected rise in demand later this decade as electric vehicles and battery storage technologies become more widespread.

The conference saw around 1,100 participants, which is consistent with last year’s numbers and nearly three times the attendance in 2019, according to the organizers. Patrick Howarth, head of Exxon’s lithium division, emphasized a steady focus on the fundamental aspects of their business at the conference, where he announced plans to increase lithium production in Arkansas. He stated that they are not deterred by low prices, nor do high ones sway them. Data from Fastmarkets projects a 29% annual increase in U.S. demand for lithium through 2030, with similar increases expected globally.

Ashley Zumwalt-Forbes, deputy director for batteries and critical materials at the U.S. Energy Department, described critical minerals as the future’s oil and gas. She encouraged more lithium companies to apply for U.S. government grants aimed at supporting the critical minerals supply chain.

These demand forecasts helped alleviate the gloomy atmosphere that had settled over the industry following recent layoffs from companies like Lake Resources and Albemarle. “Focus on the long-term trajectory if you’re concerned about current market sentiments,” advised Dale Henderson, CEO of Australian lithium miner Pilbara Minerals.

Last year, global lithium mine supply exceeded 1 million metric tons, and it’s expected to more than double by 2026 due to expansions in Africa, China, and Australia. However, producers cautioned that unless prices recover, this supply might not materialize.

Sarah Maryssael, chief strategy officer for Arcadium Lithium, emphasized that the company’s performance would be judged based on its reactions to price fluctuations and market supply conditions. Arcadium Lithium is actively developing projects around the world. Meanwhile, Albemarle, the largest lithium producer globally, initiated the conference with serious caution regarding the troubling state of lithium prices. However, they shifted to a more positive outlook by detailing plans to auction their metal supplies to the highest bidders and showed confidence in future demand levels. Eric Norris, head of Albemarle’s energy storage business, expressed his lack of concern about demand, noting that while he would prefer it to be in the U.S., he is certain that demand will exist elsewhere if not.


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