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Australia's Lithium Miners Powering The Global Electric Vehicle Charge


Australian miners are in the driver's seat to take advantage of the surge in demand for electric vehicles.

Key points:
- Australia is home to some of the biggest known lithium deposits in the world
- Lithium prices are climbing again as demand for the critical battery metal grows
- Half of Volkswagen's cars will be electric by 2030
- Australia is the world's biggest producer and exporter of lithium, a key component in batteries.

It is particularly favoured by electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers because it is lightweight.

With the biggest car maker in the world, Volkswagen, committing to half its cars being electric by 2030, demand for lithium is set to continue soaring.

"The EV demand growth this year has been really strong," Hayden Bairstow, division director of resources equity research at Macquarie Capital, said.

Hayden Bairstow
Macquarie Capital's Hayden Bairstow says matching lithium demand with supply will be challenging for at least the rest of this decade.(ABC News: Rachel Pupazzoni)
"Market penetration rates coming out of the COVID lockdowns have been better than a lot of people anticipated, particularly in China and Europe, which are leading the way."

That is welcome news for Pilbara Minerals, a lithium miner in Western Australia's north that until recently had dropped its operation down to 30 per cent production after lithium prices began falling in 2018 before bottoming out last year.

It is now back at 100 per cent capacity, with expansion work underway. And it had access to enough capital to buy the lithium mine next door when the market tanked.

Pilbara minerals pit
Workers operate around the clock at Pilbara Minerals' Pilgan open-cut lithium mine.(ABC News: Rachel Pupazzoni)
"We now refer to those facilities as the Ngungaju plant and we've just announced that we're going to restart those facilities later this year and ramp them up over the first half of 2022," Pilbara Minerals chief executive Ken Brinsden said.

Combined with its Pilgan open-cut mine, the whole operation will be exporting 580,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate annually by the end of this year.

"The scale at Pilgangoora is really incredible," Mr Brinsden told The Business.

"It's a very large resource and ultimately going to be a very large project."

The miner hopes to double that export capacity within years.