GM, Stellantis-backed lithium startup seeks $1bn for brine project

2nd February 2024 By: Bloomberg

A private US lithium startup backed by Stellantis and General Motors Co. is working with financial advisers to seek more than $1-billion for its project in California.

The funds are for a project from Controlled Thermal Resources Holdings Inc., known as CTR, in Imperial County near the Salton Sea area, according to people familiar with the matter. The region is home to geothermal brine deposits.

The financing plan is a bit of an anomaly in an industry that’s faced recent headwinds.

Price for lithium — the metal that’s a key ingredient for batteries used in electric vehicles — have tumbled more than 80% from a late-2022 record as the market whiplashed from shortage fears to a mountain of surplus inventories.

The collapse is creating havoc among producers, with stalled projects, scrapped deals and output cuts.

Still, the project from CTR involves a foray into a space that some experts have said holds promise. Unconventional lithium deposits, such as geothermal brines, have the potential to unlock future supplies of the metal, once technology challenges can be resolved.

China has long dominated global supplies of commodities crucial to EVs, but the US wants to change that and build its own supply chain. A lot of the support for domestic American production has come from the government. For the private sector, battery supply chain projects that involve processing, refining and recycling are usually well-received.

The funding plan includes equity and debt financing, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will act as the lead bank for the equity financing, said the people who asked not to be named because the information is private.

Goldman declined to comment.

Stellantis in August invested more than $100-million in CTR, expanding an initial supply agreement to have CTR supply as much as 65,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium hydroxide over a 10-year term. GM said in 2021 it made a “multi-million dollar” investment in CTR, without disclosing the precise size of the investment.