Joe Lowry (aka @globallithium on Twitter) a 30 year lithium industry veteran & founder of advisory firm Global Lithium LLC hosts both a long form podcast with guests & answers your lithium questions in a short form Q&A podcast. Both podcast versions are here on Anchor & major podcast outlets under the Global Lithium ™ brand. The original lithium podcast. Since October, 2019 The Global Lithium Podcast has been heard in 87 countries.
Dr. Rene LeBlanc is my guest for Episode 65. Rene is a PhD Chemical Engineer with extensive experience in the lithium/battery space. After a decade with Livent/FMC Lithium, Dr. LeBlanc moved on to Tesla where one of his responsibilities was evaluating potential lithium suppliers on a global basis. After a couple years at Tesla, Rene moved back to the lithium world where he now serves as Chief Technical Officer of Lithium Americas. In his current role, Rene brings his technical acumen to bear on LAC’s two world class lithium projects – Cauchari in Argentina and Thacker Pass in Nevada.
I worked with Rene for several years. I consider Rene the world’s foremost technical expert in the production of lithium hydroxide as well as one of the most knowledgeable people on planet with respect to resource development whether it be brine, hard rock or sedimentary assets.
We discuss the key criteria for lithium resource evaluation, quality metrics, qualification protocols for suppliers, reprocessing, the trade-offs of using various cathodes, future demand expectations for carbonate and hydroxide and more.
It is my privilege to count some of the world’s greatest experts in lithium, cathode and battery as personal friends. Rene is certainly in that group.
This episode is sponsored by brine services provider - Zelandez.
The is a special double episode with one of the best minds in the lithium/cathode/battery arena – Dr Yuan Gao. I have been proud to call Yuan my friend for nearly a quarter of a century. In today’s episode we discuss new safety regulations for the China EV market that will take effect in January. The new rules will likely have an impact on cathode/battery pack choices in China – perhaps for several years. You will learn the details. The new content is about 30 minutes – as a bonus I have included episode 43 which was recorded in Santiago, Chile in June, 2019. Even if you listened last year, you will likely learn something new listening again. For new listeners, I absolutely recommend E43. I edited out first few minutes so it begins with questions rather than the lengthy intro.
Thanks to our sponsor Zelandez. If you enjoy the podcast please subscribe via you favorite podcast provider.
In part 2 of my discussion with Jose Hofer we cover several topics including: ongoing quality issues in the lithium world that are dealt with by sending material to re-processors. How does the need for another link in the supply chain impact qualification by cathode and battery makers?
We move on to the current status of the (slower than anticipated) rise of NMC cathode and what the 2025 demand balance between carbonate and hydroxide is likely to be. We ponder how improved LFP implementation technologies developed by BYD and CATL will impact the use of this low cost cathode in mid market EVs.
We consider the topic of ESG (environmental, social & government) issues and discuss VW's recent visit to the Atacama – was “industrial tourism” or something much more serious that the lithium industry needs to deal with?
Next we ponder the question if DLE (direct lithium extraction) will ever become mainstream after more the 15 years of seeking commercialization. We reject the notion that Livent’s process at Hombre Muerto is DLE which some have posited of late in an attempt claim DLE is already commercial.
We end with some rapid fire questions.
Benchmark's Jose Hofer is my guest for part one of a two part episode. Jose is a mining engineer educated in both Chile and the US. He has a great breadth of experience for someone so young. Prior to Benchmark, Jose was with "Big 4" lithium producer SQM. In part one we focus on the impact of the Corona Virus on lithium demand, supply and price which, of course, can't be meaningfully discussed without addressing the current global economic situation. In part two we get into a detailed discussion of industry quality issues, the rise of lithium re-processors and much more. The podcast is brought to you by brine field services company Zelandez.
In today's episode we hear how people from Australia to the US & Canada to Bolivia and the UK are coping with the global "lockdown" or "shelter in place" orders. Some names like Chris Berry aka "the voice of reason" and Alexi Zawadzki aka "the biggest feet in lithium" are well known to Global Lithium Podcast listeners. Other names such as Gene Morgan (Zelandez), Big Ben Ash (Benchmark), Alex Rubin (Bisley & Co) and Stu Crow (Lake Resources) a little less so.
The second half of the podcast is more traditional. I do two brief interviews. The first with my daughter, Erin and her husband Joe. They live in New York, the epicenter of the virus in the US and are making the best of it. Due to a bandwidth issue and Zoom freezing for a few seconds there is a brief bit of "dead air". The second interview is with my younger daughter Cailin who lives Los Angeles. Cailin is holding up well - working from her small apartment. I ask my daughters the same rapid fire question. The answers are strangely similar. The podcast closes with a brief and positive message from my former driver and current friend Philip Wu. According to Philip, the situation in Shanghai is quite normal now. Philip's advice to us is stay inside and wait it out.
This episode features five guests - each gives his unique perspective regarding how the Corona Virus is impacting where they live. We hear from podcast newcomer Alex Cheeseman of Altura Mining and four podcast veterans - Benchmark's Simon Moores, Mac Whale from Cormark, Daniel Jimenez and David Guerrero aka "the Last Samurai of Brine". In addition to the guest's commentary I provide some thoughts on the market and why I think those projecting large supply increases over the next 24 months have it wrong. In addition to this podcast I was also on the S&P Global Platts Battery Metals podcast which you can find here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/battery-metals-podcast/id1418058093
Much of the western world is still in the early days of dealing with the "Corona Virus Storm". China and Korea have shown us the storm will pass but it takes proper response and time to effectively deal with global outbreak. It is still too early to accurately predict the impact on the lithium, battery and EV markets but I share some thoughts on possible outcomes. I also give my thoughts on what I believe is a false narrative regarding China dominating the lithium, battery & EV markets.
I am repeating one of the top episodes from season one of the Global Lithium Podcast. Benchmark Mineral Intelligence's Simon Moores and Andy Miller are the guests. We cover the "Rise of Benchmark" discussing their place in the industry providing price insights and commentary critical to various battery industry stakeholders. You will learn about various types of lithium contracts, offtake agreements vs supply agreements and what makes an agreement "bankable". We learn why the deeply ingrained concept of "spot" price is a misnomer. We discuss the different contracting philosophies of various industry players and how lithium, the Atacama and James Bond are connected. Before all that I also speak to recent price activity and some industry misinformation. And, yes, you will actually hear me say spot price in my comments when I should have said short term price.... mea culpa.
Dean Frankel from Solid State Battery developer Solid Power is back for a longer complement to the short part I we recorded a few weeks ago.
We review what makes a battery solid state, discuss Solid Power's plans to bring a much higher energy density battery to market. We get into the battery components and the lithium intensity of various cell designs. Along with lithium intensity we discuss the lithium chemical raw material supply implications to accommodate a meaningful entry of solid state batteries into the EV market.
We review the options for getting lithium metal into a solid state battery and potential routes to the lithium sulfide which Solid Power will also require.
Along the way we discuss the recent news stories that both BYD and Tesla have plans to implement a new LFP battery design to capture share in the EV market that were previously thought to require nickel cathodes. In addition to the LFP stories we discuss Dean's thoughts on GM's recent announcement about their NMCA plans.
The podcast ends with one of the more interesting rapid fire answers I have had.
Recorded on 2/29 in Tokyo. I discuss the recent LFP buzz after people learned that both BYD and Tesla plan to use a newly designed LFP battery which will have much higher energy density. I also discuss the impact of the Coronavirus on the lithium world, supply chains, etc. My early 2020 demand forecast will have to be redone based on the impact of the virus. I am celebrating the 20th anniversary of moving my family to Japan today and talk a little bit about that.
Episode 11 was recorded in Salta, Argentina in June 2018 as one of two "Father's Day" episodes.
One of my all time favorite episodes, my guests are lithium experts: Dr Daniel Galli, his son Carlos Galli and the "Last Samurai of Brine" David Guerrero. They do a great job of simplifying some of the complexities of producing lithium chemicals from brine. I do a short intro discussing what I feel are the key takeaways from this episode.
I also tell "speed listeners" how far to skip ahead if they prefer not to listen to the "intro banter" of the old podcast format. In any case - listeners will come away with a better understanding of brine chemistry and what REALLY makes Battery Quality lithium chemicals.
I am off to Battery Japan next week. Expect a podcast from the "Land of the Rising Sun".
In preparation for a planned March podcast recording with Solid Power's Dean Frankel, we decided to test the quality of recording on Zoom's video conferencing platform. What was planned as a combination "sound check" and the recording of a trailer (another first for this podcast) morphed into Part One of a two part discussion.
We find out how Dean came to work at Solid Power. We learn what defines "solid state" and the potential for better safety performance along with increased energy density. We move on to Solid Power's thinking regarding both their target market and the roadmap to commercialization. Next we delve into ongoing development challenges and finally touch on the lithium raw material implications in a solid state battery world. During rapid fire, you will hear from Solid Power newbie Will McKenna.
"Part Two" will be recorded in March.
In this episode we discuss the recent announcement by Lithium Americas regarding a transaction with their partner Ganfeng Lithium. The agreement will result in benefits to both parties. Guests Mac Whale of Cormark and LAC CEO Jon Evans will give their perspective on the deal.
Note: Mac misspeaks on the project valuation implied by the 1% of the project Ganfeng is purchasing. (1% at $16 million = a valuation of $1.6 billion).
I also discuss the recent run-up in Tesla stock and caution lithium investors not to get too excited about the likely short term impact Tesla's performance has had on certain lithium stocks. I wish Luke Kissam, CEO of Albemarle, "Godspeed" in dealing with his recently disclosed health issue. I also briefly discuss the coronavirus and potential impacts it may have on 2020 in the lithium world.
One of my objectives in starting the Global Lithium Podcast was to use it as a tool to learn from the best minds in the industry. After recording over 50 episodes, a great deal of valuable knowledge has been disseminated by my guests. Beginning this week I will, on a bi-weekly basis, repost some of the best episodes and provide commentary on what I feel the major "take aways" are. Although the lithiumpodcast.com website is still available, eventually all the episodes with guests will appear on this platform with updates and additional comments. Although I personally know many of my guests well, I learn something new each time I listen and I believe your experience will be the same. I appreciate that listening to podcasts a second time isn't for everyone which is why "Archive" episodes will be stated upfront.
The Ganfeng "Not Lost in Translation" episode is one of the best not so much for the technical information revealed but more it is a "rags to riches" story about how initially one man's vision and later a "dynamic duo" can change an industry by defying conventional wisdom. I learn from Li Liangbin and Wang Xiaoshen each time we meet. It has been a privilege to watch my two friends have great success and to have been in a small way part of that success.
On this episode we cover everything from the twitter hype over the recent rains in the Argentina Pune and what impact it may have on production to the steadily dropping spodumene prices impacting WA producers to the EV limiting battery shortage claimed by Daimler. I am asked what a new constitution would do to lithium production in Chile and what impact the new virus in China may have on a recovery in lithium prices. Finally I respond to the often asked question of "why aren't there more women guests on the podcast?" My apologies that I didn't have time to answer every question. I am trying to keep Q&A episodes in the 25 minute range.
This episode is a result of a chance meeting in Buenos Aires after seeing a tweet by James Ellsmoor aka the Digital Nomad. James has been on my list of potential podcast guests for several months so it seemed fate intervened to make this episode happen. James is an advocate for sustainability and renewables projects in rural areas and remote islands around the world. A millennial that has started several ventures but never had a "real job" is an interesting departure from my typical podcast guest.
James can be found on twitter: @jellsmoor and on Linked In and Facebook.
This is another episode that was enabled by being able to quickly respond to the opportunity via use of my Iphone to record.
In addition to speaking with James, I briefly discuss the situation in Argentina, Bolivia's new "Lithium Czar", Drama in the Atacama and the recent run-up in the stock price of junior lithium stocks.
Please note that after initial publication of this episode I inserted an "errata clip" to correct the fact that that I misspoke about Argentina's opponent in the 1986 world cup final - it was West Germany not England. The "hand of God" goal by Diego Maradona was actually in the quarterfinal final match vs England. Lesson: never listen to an American talking about futbol.
Trivia: The picture of the Global Lithium hat was taken one year ago today in a fjord in northern Norway near Tromso.
The Global Lithium Podcast adapts the format for the "Lithium Decade". One host, with co-hosts from time to time, same focus on high quality guests on the long version and answering your questions on Q&A episodes. For now, Anchor will be the podcast home but we will remain available on Apple, Spotify and other major platforms. This episode was recorded in Reno, Nevada. My guests are Dr. Rene LeBlanc, CTO of Lithium Americas and Alexi Zawadzki, President of Lithium Nevada. We discuss recent developments at the Cauchari and Thacker Pass Projects before delving into other areas. I ask and Rene explains why it is a misnomer to say "it is too difficult to make battery grade carbonate at altitude". We both worked for FMC Lithium (now Livent) in a day when Hombre Muerto produced an excellent battery quality product above 4,000 meters in Catamarca Province Argentina. I provide some comments on Livent's recent earnings guidance and make some brief comments on pricing and other pertinent topics. We have a cameo appearance by long time friend of the podcast Randall Burns of LAC while I ride across Reno in his EV and am chastised by Alexi for not owning a Tesla yet. Things get loud during the "five guys in a bar segment" when Alexi asks a broader group if you could go back an be alive for any one day in history - what would it be? This episode was recorded on my IPhone - please keep that in mind as you listen. I did not travel with a mic or recording software but didn't want to miss the opportunity to record the first long form episode of the new decade.
On this episode of the podcast I have two great guests- Daniel Jimenez, Managing Director of iLi Markets and former VP at SQM plus Jingwen Sun of Minmetals Securities who give their thoughts on the market in 2020. I say 2020 a couple of times when I meant to say 2019 towards the end of the podcast but likely context will bail me out...
This episode goes a little long (30 min) as I also give my thoughts on each of the "Big 4" Lithium Producers as we move into the "Decade of Lithium". I also respond to the question: “what is the status of the Global Lithium Podcast?”.
Mac Whale is my guest. He gives his thoughts on stocks in 2020. I talk about why I believe there is one more step down in price before the bottom, Nemaska seeks protection from creditors, why I sold Livent, 2020 contract prices and SQM's recent behavior in China.
This has been a tough year for the lithium market. I would love to tell you 2020 is going to be much better but I think we will have to wait for 2021 for a significant positive change. Why? You have to listen to find out.
This episode features Vivas Kumar of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Vivas was previously with Tesla. We discuss e-mobility, the "Manhattan Project" like effort the US needs to catch up in the "battery arms race", millennial attitudes towards mining and much more.
Jose Hofer is a rare breed in the lithium world. He has experience working for a major producer (SQM) and now the freedom to leverage his knowledge as a senior analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. I have known Jose since shortly after he entered the lithium world. One of his first mentors at SQM was Daniel Jimenez, a past guest of both the Global Lithium Podcast and this podcast. Jose also known as "titanium fingers" based on his guitar prowess is someone I believe you will be hearing from for a long time.
The first Global Lithium Podcast guest makes his initial appearance on Global Lithium Q&A. Chris Berry of House Mountain Partners answers my question and then I answer two listener questions. Run time: ~18 minutes
I spent the past week in Japan and China meeting leading cathode and battery producers. I give you my "take aways" on the transition to high nickel cathode, price and quality. I also make comments on the SQM earnings call and Galaxy's recent Sal de Vida announcement.
Joe and Emily are joined in Los Angeles by the newly minted “geek squad,” the label intended as the ultimate compliment to four technical experts. All are veterans of the podcast.
We are guided through the lithium value chain from the ground to lithium chemicals to cathode and ultimately the battery. Dr. Tom Benson of Lithium Americas shares how lithium is formed inside the earth, and how the fact that lithium “Can’t Be Tamed” is what makes it so practical for batteries. Dr. Yuan Gao of Pulead and now a Lithium Americas Board Member takes us through extracting lithium from raw materials and making cathodes. Dr. Gao, or the “Lithium OG”, explains the concept of excess lithium and why it matters even more in a high nickel world. Dr. Dr. Rene LeBlanc of Lithium Americas explains how the process to separate lithium can be the reverse of how it's formed, and shares how the physical separation process for the sedimentary material at Thacker Pass is like the process for extracting gold.. Dan Blondal of Nano One explains the different purposes served by cobalt, as a stabilizer of layered nickel structure or active material in LCO batteries.
We give a shout out to the Real Clear Politics discussion of Minerals: The Overlooked Foundations of our Future, where Emily was a panelist and felt like she knew the cool kids when Alexi Zawadski and Thacker Pass were name dropped by Carl Cannon, Executive Editor & Washington Bureau Chief of RealClearPolitics, as a carbon-neutral project.
Our guests close with what they experience as most misunderstood lithium myths, and as always we end with rapid fire questions.
This episode reviews some highlights from Cathodes 2019 and my feedback to listeners on their criticism of the podcast. One gaffe is when I say spodumene carbonate instead of spodumene concentrate but most of you would understand what I meant anyway.
In this Episode, I answer a question on hydroxide reprocessing and then we hear four more opinions from Argentina on the results and potential impacts of the recent Presidential election. Carolina Millan, Buenos Aires Bureau Chief for Bloomberg, Waldo Perez, CEO of Neolithium, Gene Morgan MD of Zelandez and my good friend and former co-worker, logistics expert David Valdez all give their perspective. I close responding to a rapid fire question.
On this episode I speak with three residents of Argentina who are all close to the lithium industry. Ignacio Celorrio, David Guerro and Emily Hersh provide their perspective on the results of the presidential election in Argentina and potential impacts on lithium producers and projects.
More on the social unrest situation in Chile. In this episode we hear from Alonso Barros, an attorney and Cambridge PhD. Alonso is involved in many things, among them serving as an advisor to various Indigenous Groups in Chile. Dr. Barros knows the details of the situation between various stakeholders in the world's largest lithium brine producing region well.
This is a special episode of Global Lithium Q&A with guests former SQM Commercial VP Daniel Jimenez and Alejandro Hess. Both gentlemen are from Chile and provide local insights to the current situation of social unrest along with the potential short and long term impacts on the lithium industry.
It has been a busy week for announcements in the lithium world. I cover the topics in the title and answer a couple rapid fire questions.
If you have been blocked by me on Twitter there is probably a good reason but feel free to voice message me via Anchor and tell me why I shouldn't have blocked you in the first place.
A large number of questions came in after episode 1: I answer four of them including: the hydroxide shelf life issue, "are we at a market bottom?" , the value of Fastmarkets' pricing product, and my take on Russia pursuing a lithium project in Chile. Of course there is a rapid fire question.