The Launch of Electric Vehicles Is Commercializing Demand for Lithium

Nissan Motor Co. unveiled its new electric car, the Leaf, which will hit showrooms across the US a month after the GM Volt. Both cars are powered by lithium batteries, which is spurring demand for commercialization of mining projects to fill it. Pan American Lithium Corp. (CA:PL) (PINKSHEETS: PALTF) looks to get in on the action, having announced that it was extending its option with Escondidas Internacional S.A. de C.V., a privately held Mexican corporation, to acquire its lithium and precious metals brine processing in the Cierro Prieto geothermal brines in Baja California, Mexico.

The Mexican lithium brine project was originally announced in December 2009 and not long after that Pan American Lithium entered into a deal with Korean-based POSCO, the world’s fourth-largest steel producer, to invest up to $5 million pending its own due diligence of the lithium brine property. That agreement was also extended to give POSCO more time and based on Pan American Lithium’s move to extend its own deal on the lithium property, it appears that the deal may be moving forward.

Lithium commercialization has been increasing, though tonnage prices have dropped from $5,000 per ton to $4,500 due to the slowdown in demand attributed to the recession. But prices may be on the rebound and with it, growing demand for lithium mining projects. Or so says Byron Capital Markets analyst, Dr. Jon Hykawy, who told AXcess News in a telephone interview Wednesday that the softening market price appeared poised for a rebound. Hykawy said that electric car makers’ commercialization would most likely lift lithium prices back into the $5,000 per-ton range and could even surpass that level, having just returned from an auto show in Switzerland where Hykawy said many automakers were showcasing lithium battery technology.

Byron Capital Markets saw growing interest in lithium mining to warrant the launch of the first Lithium Index, which currently monitors 15 mining companies based on minimal market cap. Byron Capital Markets weekly "Electric Metals in the News" noted a report on Pan American Lithium and demand forecast that indicated "The current suppliers of lithium in the market place are few and new participants need the involvement of offtake partners, among other necessities, to exist as producers successfully." Dr. Hykawy agreed, saying more partnerships were in the works, calling it a "consolidation" in the market place.