July 30, 2020 / 12:46 AM / 7 days ago

Australia's Pilbara Minerals says lithium prices may be near bottom

July 30 (Reuters) - Lithium prices may be bottoming, Australia’s Pilbara Minerals said on Thursday, supported by COVID-19 stimulus packages and government measures to boost the electric vehicle (EV) and renewable energy sectors.

Lithium has experienced a prolonged price fall due to slowing sales in China, the world’s top EV market, exacerbated by a hit to demand from coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

A strong green stimulus could boost the sales of EVs in Europe, Pilbara said, which in turn would strengthen demand for spodumene concentrate, a mineral mined for its lithium content.

“The European supply chain for lithium raw materials will need to rely on China, which is positive for spodumene demand growth,” it added.

Tesla Inc’s growth in EV sales during its second-quarter also bodes well for the lithium industry, Pilbara said.

However, the miner warned that while China is getting back to business, some disruptions within its supply chains remain.

Production of spodumene concentrate increased to 34,484 dry metric tonnes (dmt) for the June quarter, from 20,251 dmt in the previous quarter.

Sales guidance for the September quarter was for 40,000 to 50,000 dmt of spodumene concentrate, Pilbara added.

The company also said it secured a $110 million senior secured debt facility from international bank BNP Paribas and Australian clean energy investor, the Clean Energy Finance Corp.

The facility will primarily be used to fund the early redemption of an existing $100 million Nordic Bond, which was used to support the company’s financing of Stage 1 of the Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project in 2017.

Pilbara Minerals shares rose 6.5% in morning trade in a broader market up 0.7%.

Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin

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