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IndMin article – Orocobre lithium production down but average lithium carbonate prices up

by Martim Facada, IndMin. First published: Thursday, 05 April 2018 

Link here to read the original article on the IndMin.com website

Adverse weather and lower evaporation rates reduced Orocobre’s lithium compounds output in the first quarter, but it still achieved higher sales prices.

Argentina-based lithium producer Orocobre has announced a 29% fall in its production of lithium carbonate in January-March 2018, with output down to 2,802 tonnes against the 3,937 tonnes produced in the last quarter of 2017.

A 24% decline in brine evaporation rates year-on-year hampered the brine concentration process. This was a result of reduced hours of sunshine, cloudy conditions and rain, which were said to be the main factors behind the lower production.

But although production was reduced, Orocobre achieved higher prices. It sold 3,052 tonnes of lithium carbonate in the first quarter at an average price of $13,533 per tonne fob, up by 17% compared with the preceding quarter.

Total sales revenue achieved in January-March was $41.3 million.

The contract price of lithium carbonate, min 99% (Li2CO3), technical and industrial grades, was last assessed* by Industrial Minerals on March 28 at $16.00-18.50 per kg on a ddp Europe and US basis.

On the same day, the contract price for lithium carbonate, min 99% (Li2CO3), technical and industrial grades, cif China, Japan and South Korea, was assessed at $16-19 per kg on a ddp Europe and US basis.

Because of the first-quarter fall in production, Orocobre expects to produce 10% less lithium carbonate for the full 2018 financial year than was indicated by the previous guidance of 14,000 tonnes. Further details will be provided in the company’s March quarterly report.

Orocobre produced 11,392 tonnes of lithium carbonate from Olaroz throughout the 2017 calendar year, and 11,892 tonnes in the 2017 financial year from June 2016 to June 2017.

“While I recognize that this change in production guidance is very disappointing, the adverse weather conditions were outside our control,” chief executive officer and managing director Richard Seville said.

“However, recent weather events have confirmed the previously identified need to further improve the robustness of operations and reduce production variability from [the effects of] weather,” he added. “Plans for the Phase 2 expansion already include enhancements to the lithium carbonate processing plant and the potential use of evaporator/crystallizers during adverse weather events, to maintain consistent brine concentration prior to processing in both Phase 1 and Phase 2.”


Chinese lithium market remains slow but prices rise globally – IndMin article

Article by Martim Facada, IndMin

Spot prices in the domestic Chinese market for lithium have softened this week due to lower consumption, while prices in the rest of the world have gone up, driven by bullish market sentiment.

Spot prices for lithium fell this week in China because of lower consumption, with most consumers in no hurry to buy material and holding back from further purchasing while prices soften.

“The battery-grade lithium carbonate spot market has been illiquid, and it has been hard to conclude deals at prices higher than 150,000 yuan [$23,896] per tonne this week,” a Chinese lithium carbonate producer told Industrial Minerals.

“Consumers are monitoring the market and are unwilling to place orders, expecting that prices will keep moving downward,” he added.

Lower demand from battery consumers pushed down the market price of battery-grade lithium compounds, compelling producers to lower their prices to secure sales.

The spot price for battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) decreased to 146,000-150,000 yuan ($23,208-23,844)* per tonne on Thursday March 29, according to Industrial Minerals’ market assessment. This was down from 150,000-155,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week.

The price of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) remained stable week-on-week at 148,000-153,000 yuan per tonne.

Prices of technical and industrial grades of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide monohydrate were also unchanged this week amid thin buying activity.

The spot prices for lithium carbonate, technical and industrial grades (min 99% Li2CO3), ex-works domestic China, remained stable at 140,000-145,000 yuan per tonne on March 29, with the the same prices being reported for technical and industrial grades of lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O).

Seaborne markets

The seaborne China, Japan and South Korea lithium market saw a small price uptick, supported by reported deals and suppliers’ bullish market sentiment.

“We have sold one container of lithium carbonate technical and industrial grade material this week, at close to $20 per kg,” a lithium supplier told Industrial Minerals.

“Our prices remain below the current Chinese domestic spot market prices. But in recent weeks the seaborne market outside China has been close to $20 per kg, and at least $1 per kg higher for lithium carbonate battery-grade material,” he added.

Pushed by market sentiment and confirmed deals, the spot price of lithium carbonate, technical and industrial grade, cif China, Japan and South Korea, moved up slightly to $18-20 per kg on March 29 [LINK], from $17.50-19.50 per kg the week before.

Meanwhile, the price of lithium carbonate, battery grade, cif China, Japan and South Korea, remained unchanged week on week at $19-21 per kg [LINK].

The prices of lithium hydroxide monohydrate, technical and industrial, and battery grades, also showed small week-on-week upticks on March 29, to $20-21 per kg from $19-21 per kg and to $20.10-22.00 per kg from $19-22 per kg, respectively.

Europe, North America

The European and North American lithium spot markets have also shown a price increase over the course of the week, due to bullish sentiment among suppliers.

“It would be exceptional to find lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide monohydrate [for a price] as low as $17-18 per kg in the European and North American spot markets, due to the current tightness of material,” a second lithium producer told Industrial Minerals.

“The market wouldn’t sell any of our grades of lithium carbonate for less than $19 per kg or our lithium hydroxide for less than $20 per kg,” a second lithium supplier told Industrial Minerals.

Suppliers’ bullish sentiment has pushed up the European and North American spot prices of lithium carbonate, technical and industrial grades, week-on-week to $17-19 per kg on March 29, from $16.50-18.50 per kg.

Meanwhile, spot prices of lithium carbonate, battery grade, moved up to $18-20 per kg on March 29, from $17.50-19.50 per kg.

There was more spot market activity in lithium hydroxide monohydrate, technical and industrial grades, with prices moving up to $19.00-20.50 per kg on March 29 from $18.80-20.50 per kg previously.

“We have been active in negotiations to lock in more sales of lithium hydroxide monohydrate, technical and industrial grade, over the course of this week, but we wouldn’t sell material for less than $19 per kg. Actually, all our sales are [at prices] closer to $20 per kg,” a third lithium supplier told Industrial Minerals.

In addition, the lithium hydroxide monohydrate battery-grade spot market moved upward slightly week-on-week, to $19.10-21.00 per kg on March 29.

Full article here


Make acid grade again: The potential for a resurgence in US fluorspar production – by Michael Greenfield, Industrial Minerals

Article from Industrial Minerals

Published: Thursday, 08 February 2018

President Trump is set on ensuring US demand for fluorspar is served by domestic production, but with annual demand at 400,000 tonnes and effectively zero production, Industrial Minerals delves into the scope for meaningful fluorspar production in the US.

President Trump’s executive order on December 20, 2017, was administered on the basis of identifying and securing industrial minerals that are deemed critical to the United States’ economy. Yet production of fluorspar, which made the list, has been minimal since 1995, when 51,000 tonnes was produced.

The US natural fluorspar production market has been more or less dormant for over two decades despite a relative abundance of 4 million tonnes of proven reserves.

Historically, mining fluorspar in the US has been expensive, and was the dominant reason for mines closing down. But environmental clampdowns on polluting production in China has increased production costs in the Asian country and narrowed the cost gap between the US and China.

Hastie Mining, based in Illinois, US, produces 10,000 tonnes per year of fluorspar, most of which is metal-grade spar, 90% CaF2 purity or lower and used for production of metals. Meanwhile, the US imports around 82.5% of its fluorspar for manufacturing hydrofluoric acid, which requires 97% CaF2 fluorspar.

Bar Hastie’s production, the US imports all of its near-400,000 tpy of consumption. This comes primarily from four markets; Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa and Spain, although small amounts are sourced from Mongolia, China, Russia and the United Kingdom, according to 2016 data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Around 320,000 tonnes of the total imports are acid grade, and almost all of which is accounted for by end-users Chemours and Honeywell.

Globally, 88% of demand for fluorspar comes from three sectors; steelmaking, aluminium smelting and the production of hydrofluoric acid.

Some 40% of fluorspar is required for manufacturing hydrofluoric acid, of this 60% is required for flurochemicals.

The US currently produces around 85 million tonnes of steel and 6 million tonnes of aluminium. The steel market is growing, and aluminium could soon receive a boost from incoming protectionist policies on Chinese products, according to Metal Bulletin Research.

The increasing cost of imported fluorspar 

With strong and growing demand and US capacity at a minimum, it seems as though making the fluorspar supply chain secure is mission impossible.

Certainly there is the demand, although the time taken between commissioning projects, breaking ground, correcting issues in the production line, assuring quality and then delivering capacity means the effect of planned additional supply will not be felt in the short term.

There is also the issue of President Trump’s stance on Nafta, an agreement he dubbed “one of the worst in history” due to the trade deficit it created with the signatories. Ending Nafta is likely to be adverse for Mexican producers, who exported 267,000 tonnes of fluorspar to the US in 2016, according to the USGS.

Mexico has a $63 billion annual trade surplus with the US whereas Canada’s trade surplus comes to $12.5 billion, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and on that basis it is unclear whether this would affect Canada Fluorspar’s anticipated 200,000 tpy capacity, which is due to hit the market in the coming months.

With the market extremely tight, Canada Fluorspar’s output will provide some reassurance to the two US majors, who have received some of the first sales from the Canadian start-up, Industrial Minerals understands.

“If I had an additional 100,000 tonnes, I would have no problem selling it, judging from the serious inquiries I have had,” one producer outside of the US told Industrial Minerals.

The market tightness is reflected in high fluorspar prices. Industrial Minerals assessed acidspar 97% CaF2, wet filtercake prices, fob China at $480-520 per tonne on February 8, which one India-based consumer described as “the highest I have ever seen, in my 15-year career.”

Industrial Minerals understands that Chinese consumers have looked to buy material from Mongolia recently, although with limited success.

The cost of Chinese material went up on January 18 to $480-520 per tonne from $400-420 previously for acidspar 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob China, on a plethora of issues which can be partially linked to the rising cost of production due to the environmental controls now in place.

The high prices in China reinforce arguments in the market that fluorspar supply should be secured.

US consumers still have access to reasonably-price Mexican fluorspar, which is home to the world’s largest producer, Mexichem. The price for acidspar, 97% CaF2, dry filtercake, <5ppm,fob, Tampico, Mexico has been flat at $280-310 per tonne for several months, but if the market trend of China exporting very little continues or it becomes a net importer, that could place a higher demand on Mexican material and push the price up.

Domestic production

Should the cost of imported fluorspar continue to rise, the price differential between imported and domestic fluorspar could narrow further and make US production an attractive prospect once again.

Domestically, the scope to expand fluorspar production and secure the supply chain is small. The Hastie Mining operation is primarily a limestone quarry with some deposits of fluorspar which run like veins through the rock.

The company imports around 100,000 tpy of fluorspar, while locally-produced material costs around 20% higher than imports, according to Don Hastie, partner at Hastie Mining.

But Hastie Mining has been developing a deposit in Kentucky for the past three years. It will have capacity to produce 20,000 tpy of fluorspar when it comes online in the second half of 2018. The Illinois quarry operation will then cease production because of the lower head grade quality – 40% as opposed to 55%.

The Kentucky mine is financially more viable as it is solely a fluorspar operation, meaning the costs are dramatically reduced to process fluorspar for sale and there is a “different thickness of ore material,” according to Hastie.

There were no difficulties in processing the fluorspar from the limestone quarry though, Hastie added.

Nevada and California in the US also have fluorspar deposits, although no operations exist in California while UK-based Tertiary Mining #TYM is developing a mine in Nevada where the company has 2,500 acres under license.

There is 86 million tonnes of ore in this deposit, at 10% head grade, although it is believed that there are higher grades further down.

The company expects it will be able to produce in excess of 100,000 tpy of fluorspar when operational within the next five years, although this is subject to production costs, market status and offtake agreements.

This equates to around 25% of current US demand, and a few percentage points lower than that once the supply reaches the market accounting for growth in demand. That said, the company plans to export its material, it said, and has evaluated the potential for exporting to Asia from San Francisco, California.

Tertiary has signed an offtake agreement with Germany-based mineral trader Possehl Erzkontor. Under this, Possehl will take a minimum of 70% of acidspar production from Tertiary’s three sites which also include Sweden and Norway. Possehl also provided pre-financing to Tertiary.

In a recent statement made to the London Stock Exchange, the company said it is progressing the scoping study, having completed flotation test work. Still outstanding is project feasibility, de-risking and development phases, and assessments of costs, further offtake agreements, market situation for when the project goes live and economies of scale, Industrial Minerals understands.

Yet with domestic production coming at a premium, and the world’s biggest fluorspar producer just across the southern border in Mexico having escaped the price spikes seen in China and South Africa, some market participants question whether the US needs domestic production.

And it begs the question why fluorspar has been placed in the critical minerals category by the Trump administration when its security seems unobtainable. It could be related to President Trump’s promise to secure US jobs and US business, with Chemours and Honeywell both sitting within 2017’s Fortune 500 list.

Additional supply will go some way to soften the reliance on foreign imports, but until any significant amount of acid grade production hits the US market, importers will endure a large exposure to global market conditions, and prices.

Link here to view the article on IndMin website

China Kings reports surging profits as fluorspar prices rally – Tertiary Minerals (TYM)

From Industrial Minerals.

First published: Tuesday, 29 August 2017


Amid supply pressure from environmental protection policy, strong demand in fluorine chemical industry helps support fluorspar prices.

Sales and profits at China Kings Resources Group, the leading fluorspar company in China, bounced on rising prices for fluorochemical feedstock.

Revenues rose by 21% year-on-year (y-o-y) in H1, to Chinese Renminbi (Rmb) 165.83m ($25m), and net profit increased 21% y-o-y to 33.86m ($5m).

Kings Resources Group’s acidspar (min 97% CaF2) output in H1 jumpedby 30% y-o-y to 67,900 tonnes, while metspar also rose 21% y-o-y to 4,100 tonnes. The company attributed the production increase to the newly operated Dajinzhuang mine, which only began production in the second half of 2016.

However, due to the remote location of this mine in the mountain, the cold winter season and the spring festival holiday, Dajinzhuang was only in production for three months during the first half of this year, the company said.        

During the reporting period, due to the stability of product quality, the company has also started to supply directly to smelting enterprises, instead of traders. The supply volume to direct end-users are bigger, China Kings said.

Due to pressure from government policy and environmental protection, price for hydrofluoric acid were high over the period, due to capacity cut. At the same time, the downstream fluorite demand has picked up, which supported consumption for fluorspar, and pushed prices higher.

According to China Kings, the average acidspar prices in Q2 2017 spiked to Rmb1,863/tonne ($282), up 56% compared to prices in December 2016 was at Rmb 1,195/tonne ($181). Both prices were excluding taxes.

China Kings reported that demand from the fluorine chemical industry was the key driver, followed by the electrolytic aluminium and steel industries.

Citing hydrofluoric acid as an example, the basic source material of the most upper stream fluorine chemical industry, the output and capacity in China in recent years both kept over 10% CAGR, especially the six eastern provinces whose hydrofluoric acid output accounts for two thirds in China, this area had an output of 1.06m tonnes in 2016, equivalent to acidspar demand of 2.43m tonnes, meaning a supply gap of 560,000 tonnes.

Fluorspar imports to China increase in June – Tertiary Minerals (TYM).

From Industrial Minerals.

First published: Tuesday, 08 August 2017

In June, fluorspar imports increased while exports decreased and downstream industries such as aluminium fluoride and hydrofluoric acid performed well with high higher exports and average prices.

The quantity of fluorspar (CaF≤97%) imported into China jumped 72.3% year-on-year (y-o-y) and 13.13% month-on-month (m-o-m) to 18,055 tonnes, with an average import price $133.47/tonne. Mongolia and North Korea accounted for 87% and 12.7% of imports respectively.

Mean while exports of the mineral dropped 34.9% y-o-y and 13.68% m-o-m to 13,777 tonnes, but the average export price remained stable at $228.4/tonne as in May and June, and slightly up 1.8% y-o-y.

For fluorspar CaF>97%, export volumes fell by 55.5% y-o-y and 64.3% m-o-m to a mere 8,941 tonnes, but the average export price in June was as high as $276.41/tonne, surging 25.81% y-o-y and 9.92% m-o-m. India and South Korea accounted for 64% and 34% respectively and their average price was $273.6 and $260/tonne respectively. 92% came from Guangdong Province.

Imports of fluorspar CaF>97%, meanwhile, reached the highest since March 2016, surging 106.5% y-o-y to 6,358 tonnes in June with an average price increasing to $246.42/tonne. 99.95% of imports came from Vietnam.

Downstream, aluminum fluoride export volumes in June were 4,695 tonnes, down 50.6% y-o-y and 32.77% lower m-o-m.

But average prices for aluminium fluoride exported reached the highest levels in the recent four years at $1,213.29/tonne, up 24% y-o-y and 7% m-o-m. Russia accounted for 45%, followed by Australia at 29%, New Zealand at 16% and the United States at 5%. Both Australia and New Zealand had over 80% y-o-y increase while other countries all had decrease.

Hydrofluoric acid performed even better, both its export quantity and average export price hit historic peaks at 25,666 tonnes and $1,524.71/tonne in June. Volumes were up 32.2% y-o-y and 39.75% m-o-m while the average price was up 43% y-o-y and 14% m-o-m. Japan accounted for 44%, followed by South Korea 22%, Taiwan 15%, Vietnam 4%, etc. All countries had significant y-o-y increase, except USA and Ukraine.

Link here for more Fluorspar articles

Lithium market report 10-24 April – IndMin


First published: Monday, 24 April 2017


The lithium market across the three major regional markets – the US, Europe and China – has been relatively stable in April so far, supported by continuous growth in the Chinese battery sector.

The Chinese domestic market – which has higher spot market activity than the other two western regions – continues to report high levels of activity due to demand from the booming domestic battery sector.

Lithium carbonate spot prices (min. 99-99.5% Li2CO3, CIF China) remain between $18-21/kg for lots of 20 tonnes of material while lithium hydroxide (56.5-57.5% LiOH, CIF China) continues to trade at $20.50-24/kg.

In the US and Europe, the market has remained fairly stable in April although it should be noted that lithium carbonate contract prices have moved up slightly on the low end.

Large biannual contracts for lithium carbonate (min. 99-99.5% Li2CO3, del. US and Europe) saw a small increase of $0.50/kg on the low end to $10.50-16/kg from $10-16/kg previously, while large quarterly contracts rose by $1/kg on the low end to $11-18/kg from $10-18 previously.

Persisting higher prices in China, bullish sentiment and tightness of lithium carbonate on the market were the main reasons cited to IM driving the small increase.

Meanwhile, spot sales in the US and Europe are being reported as high as $18/kg for lithium carbonate (min. 99-99.5% Li2CO3, del. US and Europe).

Lithium hydroxide (56.5-57.5% LiOH, del. US and Europe) contract prices remain unchanged at $14-20/kg.

Link to full article at IndMin website here

Chinese fluorspar prices rise on steel turnaround, supply constraints – IndMin

First published Friday 24 February 2017

Fluorspar prices have risen post the Spring Festival in China as a stronger domestic steel industry boosted metspar grades and supply constraints lent support to the acidspar market.

Chinese fluorspar prices have risen for the first time since October as markets picked up after Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, holiday.

Metspar grades rose by about $10/tonne over the past week, according to IM’s assessment on 23 February….

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Steel rebound spurs optimism in met-grade fluorspar market – IndMin

First published Wednesday 18 May 2016

Growing steel production insulates metallurgical grade fluorspar market; customers turn to Afghanistan, Iran for low-cost supplies. A rebound in China and US’ steel output in the first four months of 2016 has insulated the metallurgical-grade fluorspar (metspar) market with increased enquiries signalling a recovery in demand. Registering 0.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) growth in crude steel production in the month of April this year, China’s consumption of lower…

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Fluorspar enquiries surge entering seasonal buying period – IndMin.

First published Friday 22 April 2016

Increased trade enquiries for the fluorine material signal recovery as the buying season kicks off, with potential price increase despite excess supply in China; industry remains optimistic for H2 2016. IndMin sources reported an upturn in enquiries for acid grade fluorspar (acidspar) as the seasonal buying period begins, which could fuel potential price recovery entering H2 2016. Although significant demand uptick is yet to return, producers are seeing greater interest from….

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