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Datamyne Blog

Covering trade & transport, with tips on using import-export data to advantage

Li-ion Batteries Drive Chinese Lithium Imports

Category: Markets, Trade Data

Lithium, last year’s hottest metal, looks set to be even hotter in 2017. With the new year barely a day old, mineral exploration company Birimian announced the sale of its Bougouni lithium project in southern Mali to China’s Shandong Mingrui Group.

The deal signals the start of a scramble for lithium assets, led by Chinese companies that want to ensure supplies of the raw material for lithium-ion batteries, according to the Financial Times.

Our trade data shows Chinese lithium imports [HS283691] on the rise, even as demand drives up prices.

Chinese lithium imports 2014-16

As Chinese lithium imports climb, so do battery exports

As China amasses lithium assets, it is moving aggressively to capture share of the global market for Li-ion batteries. The FT cites Benchmark Mineral Intelligence estimates that almost 70% of new Li-ion battery cell production capacity is being built in China. Our Chinese trade data shows China’s widening its lead as a source for Li-ion batteries [HS850760] imported by the US.

Chinese lithium imports driven by demand for Li-ion batteries

Meanwhile, Tesla flipped the switch at its Gigafactory on January 4.

As Comstock Magazine comments, the start of mass production at the Nevada facility is not only a huge milestone in Tesla’s progress toward electrifying transportation. The Gigafactory brings Li-ion manufacturing, which has been dominated by China, Japan and South Korea, to the US.

Still, betting on batteries is risky, says Comstock: prices worldwide fell 22% in 2016 and are forecast to drop as far as 20% in 2017.  What will put the brakes on the downward trend? Unyielding raw-material costs.

 

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You may also be interested in our Lithium Import Market Insight:

Date posted: January 9, 2017

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