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19 April | Lithium

India’s state-owned miner investigating lithium deposits in Australia

Lithium deposits. Credit: kvm_nsk via Shutterstock

India’s NMDC has started investigating lithium deposits in Western Australia. The state-owned mining enterprise hopes to expand its lithium production in order to scale up production of electric vehicles (EVs). 

It comes after NMDC’s 2022 announcement that it had purchased a stake in the Mount Bevan iron ore mine, also in Western Australia. The lithium block was purchased from Hawthorn Resources, which also bought into Mount Bevan initially. 

The second half of 2023 will also see the opening of a lithium-ion cell gigafactory in the country. The plant, built by Indian automotive firm Lucas-TVS, will have a productive capacity of 10GW. 

India’s government itself revealed the discovery of its first ever domestic lithium deposit in February, reported Reuters. With global lithium consumption jumping 24.5% in 2022, the deposit gives India the potential to develop a large domestic lithium industry. 

Demand for EVs in India has surged, attracting investment both from the government and abroad.  During the 2023-24 budget, the Indian government laid out $425.6m of investment with the aim of achieving net-zero emissions by 2070. 

18 April | Tin

Tin price spikes ahead of halt to mining in Myanmar

Myanmar’s Wa State will announce a halt to mining operations in the area from August, according to a document seen by Reuters. The announcement caused a spike in global tin prices of 11% on the day of the announcement. 

The government of the autonomous polity announced the measures in order to preserve the area’s natural resources for the future. 

Myanmar is among the world’s top three tin producers and Wa State is the country’s largest source of the metal. Approximately 95% of Myanmar’s tin is mined in the region, which accounts for one-sixth of global production. The region’s ore reserves amount to upwards of 50 million tonnes. 

Split across two regions in Myanmar’s east, Wa State’s northern region borders China, which will quickly feel the effects of this announcement. China accounted for 47% of global tin consumption in 2022.

Jeremy Pearce of the International Tin Association said: “There were problems in Myanmar in January and February, and there was a dip in Chinese production. Tin supplies have been tight. 

17 April | Tailings

University of New South Wales unveils new research to prevent tailings dams disasters.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has revealed new research that could help prevent the occurrence of failures in tailings dams. 

UNSW centred the research around how mining organisations conduct cone penetration testing (CPT). This will help miners to properly understand how tremor resistant tailings dams are. 

In CPT, miners push a cone vertically into the tailings dam to test resistance, and therefore strength of the dam. These tests had previously been conducted under the assumption that the dam’s contents were fully saturated, which isn’t always the case. 

Professor Adrian Russell from the UNSW stated that: “This [assumption] led to incorrect determinations of in-situ state of the tailings and overestimations of strength.” 

He continued: “This [research] rectifies what many falsely assume: that unsaturated tailings do not liquefy in an earthquake. This means engineers can use improved strength estimations in any earthquake stability assessment”. In turn, this helps to accurately identify which tailings storage facilities are more at risk of failure. 

17 April | Coal

China’s coal imports from Australia reach three-year high

China’s coal imports in March increased by 151% from the same month in 2022, recording a three-year high. 

As China reopens its economy after ending the zero-Covid lockdown, the demand for fuel to generate power and manufacture steel is on the rise. The country’s coal imports in the first quarter of the year were 101.8 million tonnes, close to double the figure from the same period last year. 

Data compiled by commodity analysts Kpler shows a surge in imports from Australia, first reported by Reuters. Of the 910,921 tonnes that China imported from Australia in February, 740,536 tonnes are thermal grade, typically used in in power plants; and 110,181 tonnes are coking coal, used in the manufacturing of steel. 

China’s total thermal coal imports in March were up by 81% from the same period last year, accounting 65.7 million tonnes. 

The increase in trade follows a de facto ban on the coal trade between China and Australia, which peaked in November 2020, when Beijing imposed a ban on Australian coal amid a political dispute with Canberra. In January 2023, China’s National Development and Reform Commission decided to allow four state-owned companies to resume imports from Australia.

17 April | Electric Vehicles

Volkswagen joins EV battery partnership in Indonesia

Volkswagen has announced that it will join the partnership of Vale, Ford and Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt (Huayou) to create an electric vehicle (EV) battery ecosystem in Indonesia. 

Indonesia’s minister of investment Bahlil Lahadalia announced that the German car manufacturer would be partnering with the other companies in a series of joint ventures in the country. Alongside this they will help to develop the supply of raw materials. 

The agreement will see Volkswagen capitalise on Indonesia’s vast quantities of nickel. The south Asian state is the world’s leading source of the metal that forms a vital part of EV batteries. Volkswagen will take their nickel from a mine owned by Vale, which is among the country’s largest nickel producers. 

This comes off the back of Ford joining Vale and Huayou in the joint development of a $4.5bn nickel plant in the country. Ford and Volkswagen seek to mitigate the expense at which their batteries are made. This will in turn lower the cost of EV production. 

Between 40% and 60% of an EV’s cost is down to its battery. Much of this is due to the cost of minerals necessary in its construction.