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Australian spodumene prices surge to record high on rising lithium carbonate prices


Processing margins support strong demand

Expectations of shorter term contracts

Spodumene concentrate prices have surged to a record high on a FOB Australia basis, on the back of surging lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices over the past month.

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S&P Global Platts assessed the weekly 6% lithium oxide (SC6) spodumene concentrate price at $2,444/mt on a FOB Australia basis, up $1,044/mt from the previous record of $1,400/mt on Sept 10. Platts has been assessing the price since January 2019.

On Sept. 14, Pilbara Minerals closed an online tender for a 8,000 mt cargo of 5.5% spodumene concentrate at $2,240/mt on a FOB Port Hedland basis, loading in November.

Market sources pointed to strong buying interest for any available spot spodumene cargoes with domestic Chinese lithium prices continuing to soar ahead of high lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery production levels in October.

Battery grade lithium carbonate prices are now trading at Yuan 170,000/mt and are expected to continue increasing once precursor makers start procuring for October demand, a producer source said.

Market participants indicated that processing margins were still available basis the spot tender price for converting spodumene into lithium carbonate, driving demand for any available spot cargoes.

Existing term contracts for spodumene with Chinese lithium converters were understood to be around the range of $1,000-$1,200/mt with market sources expecting the spot tender price to significantly influence upcoming new term contract negotiations.

Term contract cargoes for October and November delivery are currently being discussed at around $1,400-$1,500/mt levels, with producers likely to prefer shorter term contracts in view of downstream price volatility, a trader said.