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China ‘performed an important recreation’ on lithium and we have been sluggish to react, CEO says


This picture, from March 2021, reveals a employee with automobile batteries at a facility in China.

STR | AFP | Getty Photos

China is main the best way in terms of lithium — and the remainder of the world has not been fast sufficient to answer its dominance, in response to the CEO of American Lithium.

Talking to CNBC’s “Squawk Field Europe” Monday, Simon Clarke mentioned how China had secured its place of power inside the business.

“I simply assume the Chinese language have — I imply it’s a must to take your hat off, they’ve performed an important recreation,” he stated.

“For many years, they have been locking up a number of the greatest belongings the world over and quietly going about their enterprise and creating data on constructing lithium-ion know-how, soup to nuts,” he added. “And we have been very sluggish to react to that.”

He added that the U.S.’ Inflation Reduction Act, and various different measures, meant folks had been “beginning to get up to it.”

Alongside its use in cell telephones, computer systems, tablets and a number of different devices synonymous with trendy life, lithium — which some have dubbed “white gold” — is essential to the batteries that energy electrical autos.

Learn extra about China from CNBC Professional

China is definitely a dominant power inside the sector.

In its World Energy Outlook 2022 report, the Worldwide Power Company stated the nation accounted for roughly 60% of the world’s lithium chemical provide. China additionally produces three-quarters of all lithium-ion batteries, according to the IEA.

With demand for lithium rising, main economies are trying to shore up their very own provides and cut back dependency on different components of the world, together with China.  

The stakes are excessive. In a translation of her State of the Union speech, delivered in September, European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen stated “lithium and uncommon earths will quickly be extra necessary than oil and fuel.”

In addition to addressing safety of provide, von der Leyen additionally careworn the significance of processing.

“At the moment, China controls the worldwide processing business,” she stated. “Nearly 90% … of uncommon earth[s] and 60% of lithium are processed in China.”

Learn extra about electrical autos from CNBC Professional

With the above in thoughts, various firms in Europe need to develop tasks centered round securing provide.

Paris-headquartered minerals big Imerys, for instance, plans to develop a lithium extraction project within the heart of France, whereas a facility described because the U.Ok.’s first large-scale lithium refinery is set to be located in the north of England.

Trying forward, American Lithium’s Clarke forecast continued geopolitical competitors inside the sector.

“There’s an actual initiative to wrest again a number of the provide chain from … China,” he stated.

“I feel China is in such a dominant place, it may be very laborious to do this. However … I feel you are beginning to see that strategy occurring.”



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