Lithium Americas reduces production target at proposed Nevada mine

September 26, 2019

Lithium Americas Corp. announced that it has cut its budget and production target for the proposed Thacker Pass project in Nevada.

The company made the announcement as lithium prices plummet in China, the world’s largest consumer of the Lithium, due to fears of supply exceeding demand, even as Rivian Automotive LLC, Volkswagen AG and other automakers launch ambitious EV plans.

British Columbia-based Lithium Americas cut it budget forecast from $581 million to $400 million and reduced its expected output to 20 kt/a (22,000 stpy), down from 30 kt/a (33,000 stpy). The mine is expected to open by 2023.

“People are really preoccupied with pricing, but they’re just looking at spot pricing in China, which is only part of the market,” chief executive Jon Evans told Reuters. “The demand picture remains strong.”

A wave of new supply and Chinese EV subsidy cuts have sent lithium hydroxide prices as assessed by industry information provider Asian Metal, plummeting 36.8 percent this year to 67,000 yuan ($9,418.31/t).

Still, there is no global pricing standard, much to the chagrin of miners who see China as only part of the global demand picture. Japan’s Panasonic Corp, for instance, is a large lithium consumer. The London Metal Exchange plans to launch a lithium pricing contract in the near future.

Lithium Americas also said it has hired Nacco Industries Inc to build and run Thacker Pass, where lithium is found in clay rock. The company plans to use a proprietary acid leaching process to extract the lithium.

Nacco will fund $50 million for mining equipment, funds that will be repaid by Lithium Americas once the mine is operational.

Lithium Americas, which is developing a brine lithium project in Argentina with China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co, has not yet secured financing for Thacker Pass, a process expected to begin next year.

Lithium Americas plans to host U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), a member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee has voiced her support for pending federal legislation to streamline permitting for new mines.

“If we don’t start embracing this new technology, we are going to be left behind,” Cortez Masto said.

Photo: Lithium America's Thacker Pass project. Credit, Lithium Americas Corp. 



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