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Automakers turn to U.S. Market as Potential Source of Lithium

We’ve said it before, EV battery technology is the new black – and if the metals and minerals fueling this technology are not yet on your radar, you’ve clearly missed the memo.  Even the oil industry is coming to grips with this new reality. As our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence report:

“For the first time ever, the oil industry has acknowledged lithium and electric vehicle battery raw materials via BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2018.”

Says Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts:

 “While the subject of lithium has been on the radar of Big Oil in recent years, this is the first-time lithium has been publicly acknowledged by the oil industry. We have entered a new era for commodities.”   

While the United States was the the largest Lithium producer in the world in the 1970s, today, for a number of reasons, U.S. production lags far behind that of Chile, Australia, and several other nations, according to USGS.

The ongoing EV revolution, in which China has long jockeyed for pole position, is driving automakers to look for ways to decrease their reliance on China for their Lithium needs, and in doing so, they are increasingly turning back to the United States as a potential source of supply. As Reuters reports:

“The United States produced only about 2 percent of the world’s lithium last year, from a single mine in Nevada. But it has around 13 percent of the world’s identified resources, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Higher prices could make mining profitable. In May, the United States counted lithium among 35 critical minerals, which could up speed up mine permitting.”

Reuters cites a U.S. automaker the spokesperson of which, on condition of anonymity, said that “given its close proximity and the opportunity to diversify the supply chain, we would certainly be interested in U.S.-based lithium sources – as long as it is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and competitively priced.”

Just this past week, following the completion of a pre-feasibility study, a promising resource estimate was released for Nevada-based project.  While challenges will remain, as “some of the deposits will require as-yet untested technology for extraction,” experts, including our friends at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, believe that at least one or two U.S.-based projects could enter production in the next four to five years.

Much will depend on the domestic policy environment, where changes are on the horizon. If U.S. policy-makers and other stakeholders make good on their recently-found commitment to comprehensive resource policy reform, the United States could once more become the mineral resource power house it once was – and Lithium could be on the forefront of this development.