January 16th 2018
By Alice Woodhouse FT.com
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Toyota Group’s trading arm will take a stake in Australian lithium miner Orocobre for almost A$300m as car manufacturers seek to secure supplies of the critical ingredient for batteries to meet growing electric vehicle demand.
Toyota Tsusho will take a 15 per cent stake in lithium miner Orocobre for A$282m ($224m) to more than double lithium carbonate production capacity at Orocobre’s Argentinian mine Olaroz to 42,500 tonnes per year from 17,500 previously.
Toyota Tsusho said the investment will provide a “long term, stable supply of lithium in response to growing global demand.”
The move by Toyota follows similar investments by Chinese electric carmaker BYD, which formed a joint venture with a Chinese pot ash producer to produce lithium carbonate and China’s Great Wall Motor, which last year took a 3.5 per cent stake in Australia’s Pilbara Minerals to secure a supply of the metal.
Toyota Tsusho and Orocobre are also finalising plans to develop a 10,000 tonne-pear year lithium hydroxide plant in Fukushima, Japan. A decision will be made on the plant in mid-2018, Orocobre said in its statement.
Orocobre shares climbed almost 60 per cent in 2017. Its shares were suspended on Tuesday.
Orocobre is one of several lithium producers stepping up investment in Argentina amid expectations that President Mauricio Macri’s business-friendly agenda will transform Argentina into South America’s top producer of the mineral, ousting neighbouring Chile in five years’ time. A recent Reuters article covers this in more detail here
Toyota’s Orocobre investment further serves to underscore the strategic significance of the recent move by Cadence Minerals #KDNC to acquire up to 100% of six prospective hard rock lithium assets at the San Luis Province, Central Argentina. Full San Luis announcement here