Lithium market ‘problematic’ on project delays, executive says

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NEW YORK — The lithium industry’s struggle to match booming demand for the rechargeable-battery ingredient is “problematic” and will further tighten the market, according to a top lithium industry executive.

“It’s almost impossible for me to see a meaningful decrease” in lithium prices, Livent Corp. Chief Executive Officer Paul Graves said in a telephone interview Tuesday after the company presented quarterly earnings. “Whenever you have less supply than expected, it will create more tightness.”

Santiago-based SQM was the latest lithium producer to report a project delay as suppliers react to global demand that, according to Graves, probably will quadruple by 2025 as electric-vehicle sales accelerate.

Livent, spun off from chemicals giant FMC Corp. and listed on the New York Stock Exchange last month, is also planning to expand operations at the Hombre Muerto salt flat in Argentina. The company has all the approvals it needs to start construction there, Graves said. Livent will ramp up its first 9,500-ton-per-year expansion in the second half of 2020 and will work toward three more expansions of similar size through 2024.

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