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Lithium Market To Remain Tight Through 2024: Chile

The world's second-largest supplier of lithium, Chile, said it sees the battery metal remaining in tight supply this year and next, before switching to surplus in 2025.

Chile's government agency Cochilco said in a Tuesday presentation that demand for lithium was set to grow at more than 16% per year on average over the next 12 years as the world shifts from ICE engines to electric vehicles. While this robust demand has led to price spikes over the last couple of years, which in turn led to increased supply activity, it will be a couple more years before that supply can come online, according to Cochiclo. The market will swing into a surplus from 2025 to 2029, the presentation showed. By 2030, supply deficits will return to the market.

Last Month, brokerage Huaan Securities said that inventory in the lithium supply chain was at a low level, "and with the recovery of downstream demand in the second quarter, lithium prices could stop falling and stabilize."

Lithium prices have fallen by more than 50% since November, but in March, China’s top lithium producers agreed to establish a minimum price for lithium and has restricted output.

China accounts for a large part of the global lithium supply and dominates the global lithium-ion battery supply chain. Chile, however, is the world’s second largest supplier of lithium behind only Australia. And Chile’s President Gabriel Boric said last month that the government would move to nationalize the country’s lithium industry to bolster its economy and protect the environment.

"This is the best chance we have at transitioning to a sustainable and developed economy. We can't afford to waste it," Boric said at the time in televised address.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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