Pilbara Minerals boss declares lithium price will go higher after record spot sale

Pilbara Minerals boss Ken Brinsden has declared the lithium price will go higher after his company achieved another record price for a spot cargo of its concentrate (reports The West Australian).
28th April 2022

Releasing its March quarter production results on Thursday, the miner revealed it had accepted a bid price of $US5650 per tonne for a 5000t cargo of its 5.5 per cent spodumene concentrate in its latest Battery Material Exchange online auction.

The bid represents an equivalent $US6250/t price on a 6 per cent product inclusive of freight costs.

It is also a 140 per cent jump on the $US2350/t price Pilbara achieved for a 10,000t cargo in October.

Mr Brinsden said the results of the company’s latest BMX auction showed the global market was critically short of lithium.

“It represents another high watermark as it relates to pricing in the market and further clear evidence as to how short the market is,” he said.

He also declared the average $US2650/t price the company achieved for its product in the March quarter would “easily” exceed $US4000/t in the June quarter.

Lithium market analysts Benchmark Mineral Intelligence has reported the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate is up 95 per cent to $US76,700/t since the start of the calendar year.

“Historical norms are being broken down,” Mr Brinsden said.

“The miners are going to win more of the margin into the future because it’s likely that there will continue to be lithium raw material supply shortages.

“In effect, margin that might have been available downstream is going to be passed upstream.”

Pilbara’s March quarter output of 81,431t was down on the 83,476t it produced in the December quarter with the company citing a shortfall of staff and contractors amid labour market tightness exacerbated by COVID.

Mr Brinsden said he liked to think that some labour shortfall had been eased by the removal of the State’s hard border on March 3 but the company was now being hit by COVID infections and isolation rules for close contacts.

“The net effects of what we’ve experienced with respect to COVID and the delays and some of those people issues means that in reality we are about 2-3 months behind in production on where we would like to be,” he said.

However he said the company was still targeting a 580,000t annual run rate, which was expected to be achieved in the September quarter.

Mr Brinsden also revealed Pilbara expected to announce his successor in the next 2-3 months after he signalled in February he would leave the company at the end of 2022.

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