SHANGHAI, Mar 6 (SMM) – China’s imports of lithium concentrates stood at 145,000 mt in January, up 2.6% from December and 42.5% from January 2018, showed data from China Customs.
No imports of ROM lithium ores entered China in January, after a sharp decline in December.
Australia-based Mineral Resources Limited’s Wodgina mine suspended sales of ROM lithium ores from 2019, and this accounted for the lack of imports in China.
Wodgina’s production of ROM lithium ores will be consumed by its spodumene concentrate plant and lithium hydroxide plant.
At the spodumene concentrate plant, there are three identical modules under construction that total 833,000 wmt per year of 6% spodumene concentrate. The capacity equates to 1 million wmt per year of 5.5% spodumene concentrate. The first 278,000 wmt per annum spodumene concentrate module will begin commissioning in Q2 FY19, with commissioning of modules 2 and 3 commencing in Q3 and Q4 of FY19, respectively.
The lithium hydroxide plant will be delivered as two modules, each producing 28,000 mt of lithium hydroxide by converting approximately 50% of the total volume of spodumene concentrate produced at Wodgina. Depending upon the outcome of the Wodgina minority sale process and the requirements of the successful bidder(s), MRL may construct four modules that will convert all of Wodgina’s spodumene concentrate into lithium hydroxide.
Prices of lithium concentrate imports averaged $754/mt in January, barely changed from a month ago but down 21.4% from a year ago, as Chinese smelters sought to lower their costs for raw materials in negotiations with Australian miners after prices of lithium salts plunged in 2018.