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What is Lithium Worth?

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The following content is sponsored by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

What is Lithium Worth?

What is Lithium Worth?

Different generations find different uses for raw materials, changing the value of these inputs over time.

Lithium is not a new discovery, but its applications are. Scientists first discovered lithium as an element in 1817, but it was not until the 1970s that studies into lithium-ion batteries began.

It was a British chemist working for Exxon that first proposed the idea of lithium-ion battery. However, after some initial testing, Exxon abandoned the project.

Nonetheless, lithium-ion battery technology has evolved into regular use through cell phones and electric vehicles. It offers an alternative to fossil fuels that global industry can run on.

Just as the world currently watches the prices of oil to determine the trade winds, lithium could become just as important for the worldwide movement to clean energy.

Pricing the New Oil

Traditionally, buyers and sellers have priced lithium through long-term contracts. However, in recent times, there has been a push from major end-users, especially automotive OEMs, to have more price transparency and to use third-party independent contract references in negotiations.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence has created a standard for pricing the special lithium chemistry for the battery supply chain that the industry can rely on.

Supply & Demand: Miners, Manufacturers and End Users

Lithium is a hot commodity in the mining, manufacturing, energy storage, and automobile industries today. The current size of the market is small, but the potential is huge.

In 2016, the world’s leading lithium battery companies produced 29GWh of batteries. This production is forecast to grow to 1049GWh by 2028, an increase of 3516%.

Data Collection and Price Reporting

There are three cornerstone factors Benchmark uses to set the lithium industry’s reference price.

  1. Quality and grade of lithium
  2. Shipping costs and volumes
  3. Quality and reliability of information

Let’s look in deeper at each one:

1. Quality and Grade of Lithium

Most of the world’s lithium comes from two sources: mined from hard rock deposits of pegmatites, or pumped from lithium brine salars.

Grade and impurity of extracted lithium have unique profiles which will affect its price. Lithium is converted into different compounds: spodumene concentrate, lithium carbonate, and lithium hydroxide.

These different varieties suit manufacturers’ exact specifications with different cost profiles.

2. Shipping Costs and Volumes

The origin and destination of lithium is an important choke point for pricing information. At these locations, “incoterms” are set rules that represent the destination and origin of the material, which in turn affects the cost of lithium.

3. Quality and Reliability of Information

In order to generate a lithium price, Benchmark embarks on the industry’s most rigorous price data collection process that relies on constant contact through email, phone calls, and in-person meetings.

Benchmark analysts evaluate the information received against volumes traded, the position of a company in the market, and reliability of the source of information.

The Results

Independent and accurate prices will be key as the lithium market grows, providing a solid foundation for contract negotiations and a level of transparency that will help attract capital to the market.

The varying nature of lithium chemicals makes it difficult to manage risk, but Benchmark Mineral Intelligence is building a standard for pricing lithium to help manage this, and set us off on a new era of energy.

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More Than Precious: Silver’s Role in the New Energy Era (Part 3 of 3)

Long known as a precious metal, silver in solar and EV technologies will redefine its role and importance to a greener economy.

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Silver More Than Precious

Silver’s Role in the New Energy Era (Part 3 of 3)

Silver is one of the first metals that humans discovered and used. Its extensive use throughout history has linked its name to its monetary value. However, as we have advanced technologically, so have our uses for silver. In the future, silver will see a surge in demand from solar and electric vehicle (EV) technologies.

Part 1 and Part 2 of the Silver Series showcased its monetary legacy as a safe haven asset as a precious metal and why now is its time to shine.

Part 3 of the Silver Series comes to us from Endeavour Silver, and it outlines silver’s role in the new energy era and how it is more than just a precious metal.

A Sterling Reputation: Silver’s History in Technologies

Silver along with gold, copper, lead and iron, was one of the first metals known to humankind. Archaeologists have uncovered silver coins and objects dating from before 4,000 BC in Greece and Turkey. Since then, governments and jewelers embraced its properties to mint currency and craft jewelry.

This historical association between silver and money is recorded across multiple languages. The word silver itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon language, seolfor, which itself comes from ancient Germanic silabar.

Silver’s chemical symbol, “Ag”, is an abbreviation of the Latin word for silver, argentum. The Latin word originates from argunas, a Sanskrit word which means shining. The French use argent as the word for money and silver. Romans bankers and silver traders carried the name argentarius.

While silver’s monetary meanings still stand today, there have been hints of its use beyond money throughout history. For centuries, many cultures used silver containers and wares to store wine, water, and food to prevent spoilage.

During bouts of bubonic plague in Europe, children of wealthy families sucked on silver spoons to preserve their health, which gave birth to the phrase “born with a silver spoon in your mouth.”

Medieval doctors invented silver nitrate used to treat ulcers and burns, a practice that continues to this day. In the 1900s, silver found further application in healthcare. Doctors used to administer eye drops containing silver to newborns in the United States. During World War I, combat medics, doctors, and nurses would apply silver sutures to cover deep wounds.

Silver’s shimmer also made an important material in photography up until the 1970s. Silver’s reflectivity of light made it popular in mirror and building windows.

Now, a new era is rediscovering silver’s properties for the next generation of technology, making the metal more than precious.

Silver in the New Energy Era: Solar and EVs

Silver’s shimmering qualities foreshadowed its use in renewable technologies. Among all metals, silver has the highest electrical conductivity, making it an ideal metal for use in solar cells and the electronic components of electric vehicles.

Silver in Solar Photovoltaics

Conductive layers of silver paste within the cells of a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell help to conduct the electricity within the cell. When light strikes a PV, the conductors absorb the energy and electrons are set free.

Silver’s conductivity carries and stores the free electrons efficiently, maximizing the energy output of a solar cell. According to one study from the University of Kent, a typical solar panel can contain as much as 20 grams of silver.

As the world adopts solar photovoltaics, silver could see dramatic demand coming from this form of renewable energy.

Silver in Electric Vehicles

Silver’s conductivity and corrosion resistance makes its use in electronics critical, and electric vehicles are no exception. Virtually every electrical connection in a vehicle uses silver.

Silver is a critical material in the automotive sector, which uses over 55 million ounces of the metal annually. Auto manufacturers apply silver to the electrical contacts in powered seats and windows and other automotive electronics to improve conductivity.

A Silver Intensive Future

A green future will require metals and will redefine the role for many of them. Silver is no exception. Long known as a precious metal, silver also has industrial applications metal for an eco-friendly future.

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Visualizing All the Known Copper in the World

Are we running out of copper? This graphic from Trilogy Metals paints a clear picture of all the copper in the world, above and underground.

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All the Copper in the World

Visualizing All the Known Copper in the World

Copper has many important applications in the modern economy. From smartphones and cars, to homes and hospitals, we use the metal almost everywhere, especially with renewable energy.

Often, consumers take for granted the accessibility to modern technology without the thought of where the materials come from or their impact on the environment. The world and its resources are finite and confined by both geography and the technology used to extract resources.

As governments and economies struggle to achieve a sustainable balance between humanity’s material impact and the health of the planet, knowing the availability of resources will become a critical pivot for achieving and maintaining that balance.

Copper is one such resource—and today’s graphic from Trilogy Metals outlines all the copper ever mined and what known resources still exist on Earth.

Are we running out of copper?

Above Ground Copper Resources

The production of mined copper has increased dramatically over the last two decades, From 9.8 million metric tons in 1995 to 20 million metric tons in 2019, a 104% rise over 25 years.

A total of 700 million metric tons of copper have been mined throughout history. Based on the 2019 average price of $6,042/metric ton, that’s worth $4.2 trillion—more than the value of Apple and Amazon combined.

Chile has been the source of the majority of the world’s copper and the biggest copper mining nation. Together, Chile, Peru, and China account for 48% of current global copper production.

RankingCountryMine Production 2019 (Ktons)CountryReserves 2019 (Ktons)
#1Chile5,600Chile200,000
#2Peru2,400Peru87,000
#3China1,600Australia87,000
#4United States1,300Russia61,000
#5Congo1,300Mexico53,000
#6Australia960United States51,000
#7Zambia790Indonesia28,000
#8Mexico770China26,000
#9Russia750Kazakhastan20,000
#10Kazakhastan700Congo19,000
#11Indonesia340Zambia19,000
Other Countries3,800Other Countries220,000
World Total20,000World Total870,000

Source: USGS

As we enter the era of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and see more global economic growth, the demand for copper will continue to rise. In fact, the Copper Alliance projects an increase of 50% in just the next 20 years.

Are We Running Out of Copper? Not So Soon

Although a large chunk of the Earth’s copper is already above ground, there’s still more to mine.

According to the USGS, identified copper resources amount to 2.1 billion metric tons, with a further 3.5 billion metric tons in undiscovered resources.

At current production rates, it would take about 105 years for us to use all of it and this does not even account for recycling or new discoveries. Copper is 100% recyclable, and nearly all of the 700 million metric tons of mined copper is still in circulation. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that we won’t be running out of copper anytime soon.

Despite copper’s apparent abundance, the red metal is expensive to actually get out of the ground. As a result, the supply of copper has often fallen short in meeting its rising demand. This, in addition to falling resource grades in Chile, the largest producer of copper, emphasizes the need for new discoveries and mines.

While there are known reserves of copper above the ground, the Earth remains largely unexplored because of the inability to explore for minerals in the depths of the oceans and other planets. As the readily available supply of copper becomes scarce, the incentive to mine currently uneconomic copper increases.

A Mineral Intense Future

Most consumers take the immediate availability of materials such as copper and other metals for granted, with little thought about whether there is enough.

But it’s important to remember that these materials are as finite as the dimensions of the Earth. In this material world, understanding what is and what is not available is critical for a sustainable future here on Earth.

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