Too Late. “Lithium OPEC” Forming Just as Prices Crash

April 3, 2023

Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Brazil are analyzing the creation of a lithium cartel of sorts in charge of expanding South America’s processing capacity, turning more of their mined lithium into batteries and tapping into the electric vehicles (EVs) manufacturing sector. 

The group would emulate similar schemes, such as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), in terms of coordinating production flows, pricing and good practices, representatives of the Argentinean delegation said at the annual PDAC Convention, held this week in Toronto, Canada. 

New York Times:

Lithium, the common ingredient in almost all electric-car batteries, has become so precious that it is often called white gold. But something surprising has happened recently: The metal’s price has fallen, helping to make electric vehicles more affordable.

Since January, the price of lithium has dropped nearly 20 percent, according to Benchmark Minerals, even as sales of electric vehicles have soared. Cobalt, another important battery material, has fallen by more than half. Copper, essential to electric motors and batteries, has slipped about 18 percent, even though U.S. mines and copper-rich countries like Peru are struggling to increase production.

The sharp moves have confounded many analysts who predicted that prices would stay high, or even climb, slowing the transition to cleaner forms of transportation, an essential component of efforts to limit climate change.

As with any commodity, there is a wide range of opinion on what has caused the recent drop in prices and on how much lithium will cost in the coming months and years.

Some analysts said the falling price of lithium was caused by short-term factors like slowing sales growth in Europe and China after subsidies for electric car purchases expired. But other industry experts said the drop suggested that new mines and processing plants were solving the lithium problem sooner than many analysts had thought was possible.

Meanwhile, new technologies continue to develop that may make Lithium irrelevant. Sodium Ion batteries use no lithium, and sodium is widely available in abundant supply.


A research team from the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has developed a sodium-ion battery with greatly extended longevity. The findings, published in the journal Nature Energy, provide a promising recipe for a battery that may one day power electric vehicles and store solar energy.

The researchers shifted the ingredients that make up the battery’s liquid core. That shift prevents performance issues that have caused trouble for previous sodium-based batteries. 

PNNL lead author Jiguang (Jason) Zhang, a battery technologies pioneer with more than 23 patented inventions in energy storage technology, said:

Here, we have shown in principle that sodium-ion batteries have the potential to be a long-lasting and environmentally friendly battery technology.


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