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SK On takes 10% stake in Australia’s Lake Resources; battery-grade lithium supply deal

SK On, a global electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturer, signed a lithium supply deal with Australia’s Lake Resources (earlier post), a move that will further strengthen its key battery materials supply chain in response to robust business growth and geopolitical risks.

Under the agreement, SK On anticipates the delivery of battery-grade lithium commencing as early as the fourth quarter of 2024 after acquiring a 10% stake in Lake Resources. The offtake deal has an initial five-year term with an option for additional five years.

SK On would be supplied with 15,000 tons of lithium for the first two years and 25,000 tons of lithium from the third year, meaning the Korean battery maker can secure a total of 230,000 tons of lithium —enough to produce batteries for approximately 4.9 million electric vehicles (EVs).

Established in 1997, Lake Resources currently develops four lithium brine projects in Argentina. Of them, Lake Resources will supply high-purity lithium from its flagship Kachi Project.

Kachi comprises 705 sq km of leases and lease applications over a brine-bearing basin 20km long, 15km wide, and 400-800m deep centered. In November 2018, Lake announced a maiden JORC resource at Kachi of 4.4 million tonnes (Mt) of contained lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), and an exploration target ranging between 8-17Mt of LCE. This ranks Kachi as one of the world’s top 10 brine resources.

Lake Resources produces lithium using a direct lithium extraction (DLE) technique, an environmentally friendly extraction method developed by its US partner Lilac Solutions. The DLE technique from Lilac Solutions delivers a noticeable reduction in brine, water use and land use as its extraction process includes brine reinjection.

SK On is considering using the supplied lithium at its battery manufacturing plants in the US. The first of SK On’s two plants in Georgia began mass production of EV batteries earlier this year, while the second one is expected to be operational in 2023.

BlueOval SK, the joint venture between SK On and Ford Motor Company, is building three plants in the US —one in Tennessee and two others in Kentucky. They are expected to be operational from 2025.

The deal with Lake Resources is SK On’s latest effort to bolster its key battery materials supply chain with Australian mineral developers. On 28 September, SK On signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Global Lithium Resources for a stable supply of lithium. (Earlier post.)


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