By James Burgess
The age of the electric vehicle (EV) will be here sooner than you think.
Out of 1 billion cars in the world, only 2 million are electric. But that will soon change, as costs diminish, and more governments encourage the adoption of EVs to cut carbon emissions and fight urban pollution.
According to Bloomberg, by 2040, 54 percent of all new car sales will be for EVs. Millions of new EVs will take a big bite out of oil demand and displace 8 million barrels of transport fuel (gasoline and diesel) every day.
But the biggest factor in the EV surge is what’s under the hood…lithium ion batteries.
Bloomberg estimates that in the late 2020s, cheap battery technology will allow EV production to skyrocket.
The key is lithium, “white petroleum,” which is quickly becoming the world’s most sought-after mineral.
Jonathan More of lithium miner Power Metals Corp. calls it the largest commodity boom “in a generation.” The world is going to need “mountains of lithium, from all over the world, to satisfy the global hunger for batteries.”
A lot of those lithium batteries will be needed for EVs: in fact, major oil companies like Total SA have estimated that 20 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, and they’ll need enough batteries to power 200 million cell phones. That’s 1.2 million tons, six times current production levels.
With future demand like that, it’s no wonder that miners like Power Metals are so bullish. With a 15,000m drilling program about to get underway on 3000 hectares, Power Metals is at the center of the Canadian lithium belt that could contain as much as 7.5 million tons of lithium.
Forget oil and gas; the future of energy belongs to lithium.
When EVs first started to roll off assembly lines, plenty of skeptics scoffed. EV sales were tiny and concentrated on the luxury car market.
But now that’s all changing.
In March 2018, more than 40,000 EVs were sold in Europe, a 41 percent increase from last year. Total sales for the year were up 37 percent from 2017. European auto-makers like Volvo want to concentrate on EVs, and plan on electric cars and trucks covering 50 percent of all sales by 2025.
Porsche will be 50 percent EV by 2023. General Motors and Toyota want to sell 1 million EVs per year by 2025.
The real juggernaut in the global EV market is China, where half of all EVs are currently in use. China will remain the chief EV market for the next 5-7 years, and demand is growing more quickly than expected.
Global EV sales are estimated to increase from 1.2 million in 2017 to 1.6 million in 2018 and 2 million in 2019. By 2025, some states have decreed that EVs must make up 15 percent of all new car sales.
The Boston Consulting Group released a report estimating that hybrids and EVS would cut the market share of internal combustion cars by 50 percent by 2030.
Whether you’re an EV skeptic or a Tesla super-fan, it’s impossible to deny that EVs are going to transform the international auto market…and trigger a massive increase in demand for lithium, the key ingredient in all EV batteries.
The White Gold
You can’t have EVs without lithium ion batteries. That’s why Tesla CEO Elon Musk built a “gigafactory” in the Nevada desert, where thousands of batteries are churned out every year.
The worldwide battery market was $5.1 billion in 2017, but it’s to expand rapidly and could reach $58.8 billion by 2024.
Batteries have gotten a lot cheaper to make, but it all hinges on securing an adequate supply of lithium.
New lithium deposits are being uncovered all the time. One asset, Paterson Lake in Ontario, contains thousands of tons of lithium spodumene locked away in “pegmatite,” hard-rock formations that are entirely different from the salt-brine lithium found in South America.
Power Metals Corp., which owns the Paterson Lake property, has launched an aggressive 15,000m drilling program. According to head geologist Dr. Julie Selway, the property contains a “staggering amount of pegmatite dykes” and a “huge potential of finding more lithium mineralization.”
Along with firms like Nemaska Lithium and Quantum Minerals Corp., Power Metals (PMC) is at the forefront of Canada’s lithium boom.
Together with new production in South America, Australia and Europe, Canada will help feed the world’s lithium demand and facilitate the surge in EVs by the 2020s.
When EV demand began picking up in 2015, it triggered a bull market for lithium. Prices shot up as battery manufacturers started buying up all the lithium they could find.
Lithium prices remained strong in early 2018, and capital is flooding into lithium projects all over the world.
A lot of the money is coming from China, the world’s leading battery manufacturer. Capital is seeking out lithium properties in South America, as Chinese companies hope to secure lithium supplies to feed EV battery growth.
A Chinese investment group recently acquired Lithium X for $265 million, taking over that company’s Argentinian property at the center of South America’s “lithium triangle.”
Chile and Argentina are the world’s no. 2 and no. 3 lithium producers, and production in Argentina is expected to triple by 2019 to more than 15,000 metric tons per year.
So aggressive has the Chinese push into South American lithium been, the Chileans have started to push back, warning one Chinese firm away from attempting to buy one major lithium producer, worth $5 billion.
Money is flooding into the lithium sector. And lithium miners like Power Metals will need every penny to fuel surging battery demand.
Fueling the Fire
According to one August 2017 analysis, the global lithium ion battery market could reach $93 billion by 2025, growing at a rate of 17 percent each year.
To feed that colossal demand, the world is going to need lithium. A lot of it.
Miners in Canada and South America will bear the burden. Power Metals could potentially turn Canada into a major lithium producer, and it’s not alone: other companies like Nemaska Lithium have also made big discoveries, riding them to billion-dollar valuations.
Battery manufacturers feeding the EV market will rely upon new sources of lithium production. The surge of investment into lithium mining could turn into a flood.
Pretium Resources (NYSE:PVG): This impressive Canadian company is engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of precious metal resource properties in the Americas.. Additionally, construction and engineering activities at its top location continue to advance, and commercial production is targeted for this year.
The company’s modest market cap and stock price make it an appealing buy for investors. Pretium has an impressive portfolio and if you can catch the stock while the price is right, there could be huge opportunity for upside.
Newmont Mining Corp (NYSE:NEM) Founded over 100 years ago, Newmont Mining Corporation is one of the leading mining companies in the world. The company holds assets in Peru, Australia, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, and around the United States. Primarily focusing on gold and copper, Newmont has steadily carved out a name for itself among those in the industry.
Newmont has had an excellent start to 2018, and it is set to keep up the pace as burnt bitcoin buyers move back to gold and silver.
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd (NYSE:AEM) Canadian based miner, Agnico Eagle Mines is an especially noteworthy company for investors. Why? Between 1991-2010, the company paid out dividends every year. With operations in Quebec, Mexico, and Finland, the company also is taking place in exploration activities in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. This is certainly a company with tremendous potential that grows better by the day.
Investors have certainly taken note. In the past month, Agnico has seen its share prices climb steadily, and 2018 looks to be shaping up to be a promising year.
Turquoise Hill Resources (NYSE:TRQ) is a mid-cap Canadian mineral exploration and development company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its focus is on the Pacific Rim where it is in the process of developing several large mines.
The company mines a diversified set of metals/minerals including Coal, Gold, Copper, Molybdenum, Silver, Rhenium, Uranium, Lead and Zinc. One of the fortes of Turquoise hill is its good relationship with mining giant Rio Tinto.
Going forward, Turquoise’s success at the giant Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia will be crucial to boost its lagging share price.
Cameco Corporation (NYSE:CCJ) Cameco is one of the largest global producers and sellers of uranium and nuclear fuel. Its operating uranium properties include the McArthur River/Key Lake, Cigar Lake, and Rabbit Lake properties located in Saskatchewan, Canada; the Inkai property situated in Kazakhstan; the Smith Ranch-Highland property located in Wyoming, the United States; and the Crow Butte property situated in Nebraska.
While many analysts see low uranium prices as a problem for miners, an OPEC like move from world uranium leader Kazakhstan to bump prices could benefit Cameco and its peers.
A strong push towards nuclear power from China, India and the Middle East could create further upside for this promising miner.