Australian miner sells lithium before auction as prices rise

15th March 2024 By: Bloomberg

An Australian lithium miner has sold a cargo of the battery metal before a scheduled auction next week, just as market prices show signs of a rebound following a year-long rout.

Pilbara Minerals Ltd. accepted a pre-auction offer for spodumene concentrate — a partly processed form of lithium — with the buyer paying the equivalent of $1 200 a ton, it said in a statement Thursday. The online auction for the 5 000 metric tons was scheduled for March 18, but the company said it “received a number of pre-auction offers”.

The miner last held an auction at the end of 2022, with a winning bid amounting to $8 575 a ton. A ramp-up in global supply and slower-than-expected electric vehicle demand growth have since seen market price crash more than 80% from an all-time high.

Still, the industry has finally started to show tentative signs of life, with data pointing to a recovery in spodumene prices last week.

“The auction price premium indicates miners’ desire to support prices and buyers’ anticipation of a demand recovery in the second half,” said Ruiming Zhang, an analyst at CRU Group. However, supply still “far outweighs” consumption this year, while there’s a possibility for a more balanced market in 2025, he said.

Pilbara Minerals said offtake from this week’s sale is scheduled to be shipped in the December quarter, adding that future auctions were unlikely this year as its forecast production volumes were now “largely allocated.” The company didn’t identify the buyer in Thursday’s statement.