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US only producing 1% of global lithium despite domestic resources

Coronavirus pandemic emphasizes need for US output

Pittsburgh — The coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent impact on the global lithium supply chain emphasizes the US' damaging overreliance on lithium from China, American Battery Metals CEO Doug Cole said Monday.

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"If coronavirus has shown us anything, it's that we are far too reliant on China and other countries for key minerals like lithium, cobalt and nickel," Cole said in a statement. "The United States is rich in these key metals, and we must quickly increase domestic investment to bring these resources into the supply chain."

The US is only mining and producing about 1% of the world's lithium despite having access to large domestic lithium resources, Cole added.

Following a weak 2019 market, American Battery said lithium pricing was expected to rebound in 2020 before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic.

"The big three lithium companies have telegraphed profit warnings due to coronavirus-driven logistics issues in the supply chain," American Battery said, adding that the supply chain was primarily impacted by lower imports from China.

American Battery plans to launch a battery recycling facility by the end of the year where it will utilize an extraction process to obtain lithium and other battery metals from used batteries and electronics. The company also owns lithium mining properties in Nevada.

Piedmont Lithium CEO Keith Phillips shared similar comments earlier this month regarding renewed emphasis on US-produced lithium in the wake of the supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.

"China currently produces roughly 80% of the world's lithium hydroxide," Phillips said in a statement. "While uncertainty exists with respect to the duration of the current economic slowdown, it is increasingly clear that the future is bright for the lithium business, particularly in the United States."