Top 10 lithium producers
The global demand for lithium continues to increase at a significant rate and mining operations appear to be ramping up to meet it. The lightest and least alkali metal, lithium enjoys widespread commercial use in grease, dryers, air conditioners, medicines and a fast-rising call from the battery and renewable energy sectors. These top lithium operations are aggressively working to meet that demand for the mineral branded ‘white petroleum’ through expansive mining and innovative technological advancements.
10 | Wealth Minerals
Canadian-based Wealth Minerals has invested heavily in lithium mining in northern Chile. The outfit tapped into the lithium rich Salar de Atacama region where SQM and Albemarle have productive mines. Having acquired the Laguna Verde operation, this lithium junior outfit has access to a potential 512,960 tonnes of lithium carbonate. Stock value has taken a sharp uptick since January 2016 and continues trending as the outfit moves forward in developing its lithium operations in Chile. In many respects, Wealth Minerals might be an operation starting to come into its own, depending on the success or failure of the Laguna Verde project.
9 | Galaxy Resources Limited
Recognized as one of the hot lithium mining companies of 2017, Galaxy stock reportedly shot up more than 300 percent. Focused on key lithium regions such as the Sal de Vida project in northern Argentina, Mount Cattlin in Australia and James Bay in Quebec, Galaxy taps into major and manageable deposits. The James Bay operation has a potential yield of 11.75 million tonnes with the Sal de Vida project residing in the “Lithium Triangle,” home to 60 percent of the world’s reserves. Mount Cattlin has an output of 137,000 tonnes per annum. The focus on tried-and-true lithium reserves has this mining company on a two-year upswing. However, stocks have declined through the first half of 2017.
8 | Nemaska Lithium
One of the few operations geared toward culling direct lithium hydroxide, Nemaska has been working the Whabouchi mine in Quebec, Canada. Some claim this could prove to be the second wealthiest mine and potentially the biggest lithium deposit on the planet, at an estimated 28 million tonnes. The open-pit operation yields 2,740 tonnes of ore daily and has a life expectancy of 26 years. Despite a promising portfolio, Nemaska lithium stock has declined in 2017 and stands below its 1.20 rate five years ago.
7 | MGX Minerals
MGX is active in numerous large-scale mining operations in Canada with others located in the United States. The outfit employs a specialized practice to cull lithium carbonate and other minerals from salt water. The water, which moves to the surface with pumped petroleum, is treated as a waste by-product. As an innovator in lithium and mineral mining in general, MGX has acquired more than 1.7 million acres of brine resources for its oilfield extraction process. Currently, waste water disposal runs approximately $13 per barrel and MGX is engaged in developing a treatment process that would purify the water after extracting the lithium. MGX is a next generation lithium producer.
6 | Lithium Americas
Formerly knowns as Western Lithium, this outfit has been working Chile’s Cauchari-Olaroz resource in conjunction with SQM. Earlier this year, Americas also entered into a development agreement with Ganfeng Lithium that will invest $174 million into Cauchari-Olaroz. Although Lithium Americas gave up 19 percent of its portfolio in the deal, the arrangement is likely to propel the mining company into the big time. The deposit has been said to potentially hold the majority of the world’s known lithium and the outfit expects to pull 50,000 tonnes per annum. Lithium Americas also has interests in Nevada, USA. The operation’s stock has trended upward from .20 in 2012 to .87 in 2017. However, Lithium Americas has suffered a modest slide since February.
5 | Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium
China’s number two lithium producer is headquartered in Xinyu and has been on a global move to acquire stakes in growing operations such as International Lithium and Australia’s Reed Industrial Minerals. An international dealmaker, Jiangxi threw in with Albemarle and SQM to expand and identify Argentinian resources. Jiangxi has enjoyed marked success in recent years. For instance, as a 43.1 percent stake holder in Australia’s Mt. Marion lithium mine, the operation ramped up production by 160 percent in 2016, topping out at 60.5 million tonnes of lithium. Its five-year stock ascension continues to look strong for long-term investors.
4 | Sichuan Tianqi Lithium
Based out of Chengdu, China, this company is considered the global leader in hard rock-based lithium production. Tianqi and Albemarle have been collaborative bedfellows in recent years. After Tianqi out manoeuvred Rockwood Holdings for control of Australia’s Greenbushes mines, it sold 49 percent back after Albemarle acquired Rockwood. The joint venture has been lucrative with Albemarle making significant investment into the mines. The leading Chinese operation has been on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange since 2010 and its portfolio includes mining operations in Australia, the Chinese provinces of Yajiang County, Ganzi Prefecture and Sichuan, as well as the Zhabuye Salt Lake Lithium Project in Shigatse, Tibet. Over the last five years, stock values have risen from 7.86 to over 54 in a highly stable fashion. Its Asia operations claim to have access to more than 200,000 metric tonnes of lithium reserves and Greenbushes’ output nears 40 percent of the global market.
3 | FMC
With global offices in six countries, FMC has been aggressive in Argentina’s Salar del Hombre Muerto and has reported revenues in excess of $230 million. The corporation placed emphasis on its lithium hydroxide operation in China last year and that investment is expected to yield a significant capacity boost. A jump from 2016’s 10,000 metric tonnes to 18,000 in 2017, and an upward trend that may hit 30,000 by 2019, keeps FMC poised as an industry leader. Along those lines, FMC fostered an agreement with Nemaska Lithium for a supply of 8,000 metric tonnes of lithium carbonate annually. The agreement goes into effect in 2018. FMC Corp stocks have been upwardly mobile since February 2016.
2 | SQM
Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM), an open traded stock company, has shown steady gains since January 2016 and appears to be a lithium-producing riser. The outfit enjoyed stock value highs in the fall of 2012, but bottomed out in July 2015. During this low point, the company came under scrutiny for bribery and tax evasion allegations and sustained friction with Chile’s Corfo over lease agreements in Salar de Atacama. After banding with Lithium Americas to undertake the Argentinian Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in 2016, SQM’s portfolio began trending upward. Planning to drop $100 million into the project this year, an uptick from 6,000 to 13,500 metric tonnes annually is expected.
1 | Albemarle
This global outfit is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and emerged as the world’s top lithium superpower after its acquisition of Rockwood Holdings and Rockwood Lithium in 2015. In January, the corporation concluded at deal with the government of Chile’s Development Agency that allows it to increase lithium mining at the Salar de Atacama operation in the Antofagasta region and has touted an investment uptick of $400-$600 million. The move is expected to increase battery-grade lithium carbonate output from 24,000 to 80,000 tonnes. Albemarle has also been aggressive in augmenting other global lithium operations.
With a 40 percent stake in Australia’s Greenbushes mine, Albemarle has pushed for significant upgrades to the facility and expects to double production to 1.34 million tonnes of lithium concentrate by 2019. Considered the world leader in lithium mining, Albemarle shows no sign of falling behind the pack.