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CPM Market Commentary: Battery Metals: Boom, Bust, Repeat

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CPM Market Commentary: Battery Metals: Boom, Bust, Repeat






Looking at the projections for electric vehicle (EV) sales, and then at all the metals these EVs will require to furnish their battery packs, it is easy to look at the suite of “new energy” metals and imagine a fountain of riches flowing to miners and project developers, another so-called, marketing-hype-driven “supercycle” to rival or even outdo the decade-long boom in base metals fueled by the build-out of China.


The reality has proven far less rosy. This note focuses on spodumene as a proxy for lithium generally, but the same principles apply to nickel, manganese, cobalt, graphite, and even to some extent to copper.


Spodumene is the most prevalent hard rock source of lithium and is sold to refiners at a price based on a reference grade of 6% contained lithium oxide. Mined historically for a range of applications including such prosaic uses as ceramics, lubricants and fluxes, spodumene has emerged as a major source of lithium for EV batteries, with supply roughly on a par with lithium brines.


Spodumene prices recently took off in the 2017-18 period, rising to around $800 per ton for reference-grade material. Within two years the price had dived to less than $400 per ton,


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Courtesy of the CPM Group


Posted November 29, 2023

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