The lithium industry is going through its strongest ever period of price increases as both prices of lithium carbonate and hydroxide – the two primary chemicals produced – head north of $10,000/tonne.
According to data collected by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, the price of lithium carbonate so far in 2016 is 47% higher than last year’s average and the industry is experiencing some of the widest price ranges ever seen.
The only increases that have come close to this surge were when the price of lithium carbonate rose by 36% y-o-y in 2009.
This was followed by a collapse in prices in 2010 when they fell 28% y-o-y at a time when the majority of mineral and metal prices were increasing.
Lithium’s price fortunes are becoming increasingly tied to consumer electronics through its application in lithium ion batteries while other the price of other minerals and metals like iron ore, bauxite, and graphite are still driven by industrial demand, predominately in China.
Interestingly, over the last decade lithium’s price has only once seen a decline, other years have seen at least marginal increases in the single digits.
In addition, 4 out of the last ten years have seen double digit increases for the price of lithium carbonate: 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2015.
There is little doubt that 2016 will be added to this list.