LONDON (Reuters) - The global lithium market is heading for a surplus as big producers gear up for more production and other miners plan new projects.
The four main lithium producers this year announced expansion projects that would add a total 43,500 tonnes of lithium hydroxide production capacity over the next two to three years, according to consultancy Roskill.
That would be equivalent to over a fifth of lithium output this year, based on Macquarie forecasts.
There are also a slew of new projects on the drawing boards. Bernstein listed 35 projects which have combined resources of 90 million tonnes.
Below are details of recent expansion plans by major lithium groups and several new projects.
In September, Chilean fertiliser and chemical producer SQM SQMa.SN said it planned to invest around $30 million by the end of 2017 to increase its annual lithium hydroxide production capacity by 7,500 tonnes.
In September, China’s Tianqi Lithium Industries 002466.SZ announced plans to open a A$400 million ($300.60 million) plant in Australia in late 2018 that will produce 24,000 tonnes a year of lithium hydroxide, boosting the firm’s processing capacity by more than 50 percent.
In February, U.S. chemical producer Albemarle Corp (ALB.N) signed a MOU with Chile for its Rockwood unit to invest between $400 million and $600 million in the next four years to increase its production of battery-grade lithium carbonate in the country to 70,000 tonnes from its current 24,000.
In August, Albemarle signed a deal to acquire Chinese processing plants from Jiangli New Materials that have total lithium salts capacity of 15,000 tonnes a year and has infrastructure in place to support an expansion of 20,000-25,000 tonnes.
In July, U.S. agriculture and nutrition company FMC Corp (FMC.N) said it plans to expand lithium hydroxide capacity by 8,000 tonnes next year to 18,000 and further boost output to 30,000 tones over the next several years.
GALAXY RESOURCES (GXY.AX) - Launched production in November at its Mt. Cattlin mine in Australia with a capacity of 20,000 tonnes a year. It is also developing the Sal de Vida project in Argentina, billed as one of the world’s largest lithium brine deposits, with first output in 2019 and potential annual output of 25,000 tonnes.
OROCOBRE (ORE.AX) - Started production at its Olaroz mine in 2015, aiming for 15,000 tonnes of output in 2017 and later expanding up to 42,500 tonnes a year.
PILBARA MINERALS (PLS.AX) - Aims to launch construction by the end of the year on its Pilgangoora project in Western Australia and commission it by the end of 2017, to produce 330,000 tonnes a year of concentrates.
LITHIUM AMERICAS (LAC.TO) - Developing Cauchari-Olaroz project together with SQM in Argentina, billed as the third largest lithium brine deposit in the world, aiming for 40,000 tonnes a year output.
BACANORA MINERALS (BCN.V) - Running a pilot plant at its Sonora project in Mexico, which it says is one of the world’s biggest clay lithium deposits. It hopes to produce 35,000 tonnes of lithium per year.
ERAMET (ERMT.PA) - Working on the Centenario-Ratones project in Argentina, which it says can support output of 20,000 tonnes per year for decades.
($1 = 1.3307 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Eric Onstad