SHANGHAI, Jan 10 (SMM) - Tianqi Lithium has reportedly agreed to acquire the Australian lithium developer Essential Metals in a deal that could speed up the production of lithium to supply about 10 million electric vehicles.
Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia, a joint venture headed by China's Tianqi Lithium with the Australian mining company IGO as partner, offered A$136 million (or 632 million yuan) to purchase Essential Metals Ltd. The Pioneer Dome project in Western Australia, an undeveloped mine with estimated total reserves of more than 100,000 mt of lithium, was included in the deal.
Though the amount is small compared with Tianqi Lithium's large-scale business, the supplies are of critical importance as key raw materials of battery when global automakers scramble to meet ambitious electric vehicle production targets. The shortage of lithium has sent lithium prices and the market values of related companies soaring over the past year. In fact, the bid price by Tianqi Lithium was at a 45% premium of Essential Metals’s last closing price.
Shares of Essential Metals soared 41% in early trading on January 9.
According to the current timeline, the production of the Pioneer Dome lithium mine may not start until 2025. But Essential Metals said Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia was able to accelerate the process with its rich experience and sufficient capitals.
The acquisition, which has won the support of Essential Metals' board of directors, still needs shareholder approval. As such, the acquisition is expected complete by May 2023.
Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia owns a majority stake in Greenbushes in Western Australia, one of the world's largest lithium mines, and it was the first operator to build a battery-grade lithium hydroxide refinery in Australia.