Pilbara Minerals and Altura Mining have both announced the first shipment of spodumene concentrate to their off-take partners in China. The vessel departed Port Headland in W. Australia carrying 8,800t (wet) spodumene concentrates from Pilbara Minerals grading 6.1% Li2O and 1.2% Fe2O3. Altura Mining reported loading of 5,000t spodumene concentrates grading >6.0%Li2O and 1.05% Fe2O3 at Port Headland, which is destined for its off-take partner Lionergy in China.

Pilbara Minerals and Altura Mining have joined AMG Lithium, which announced the completion of its initial shipment of spodumene concentrates from the Mibra mine in Brazil to its off-take partner in China at the end of September. Shipments of spodumene concentrates from all three new producers are scheduled to be ramped-up throughout the remainder of 2018 and into 2019.

The start of additional shipments of spodumene concentrates to China represents the next wave of lithium supply to enter production, which is expected to provide raw materials for significant capacity expansions at producer off-take partners including Ganfeng Lithium, Lionergy and General Lithium.

Raw materials availability for smaller scale converters without fixed off-take agreements is expected to remain limited, with most expected to continue importing feedstock from Galaxy Lithium.

The start-up of spodumene concentrate exports to China from Pilbara and AMG Lithium is concurrent with falling imports of Direct Shipping Ores (DSO) from Mineral Resources in Australia, which identified exports of spodumene concentrates to provide better economic returns when compared to DSO.