NEW YORK, March 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
Lithium remains a key commodity for the future due primarily to a rising worldwide demand for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Used to power many consumer electronics and electric vehicles, the market for lithium-ion batteries is rapidly growing, on pace to reach $46.21 billion in the next five years. To meet this rising demand, leading lithium mining companies such as MGX Minerals, Inc. (OTC: MGXMF) (CSE: XMG.CN) (MGX Minerals Profile), Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB), Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (NYSE: SQM), FMC Corp. (NYSE: FMC) and Galaxy Resources Limited (OTC: GALXF) are tirelessly working to find new, cost-effective ways to successfully extract this valuable mineral.
A key player on the lithium mining market, with a proprietary and lucrative extraction method, is MGX Minerals, Inc. (MGX Minerals Profile). MGX Minerals uses an innovative extraction method called petrolithium, under which lithium and other valuable minerals are sourced from petroleum brine water in a faster and more environmentally friendly way than typical extraction methods such as hard-rock mining or solar evaporation. The company was the first to recognize the potential of petrolithium and to implement a business strategy based on this method. With its engineering partner, PurLucid Water Treatment Systems, MGX has patented and patent-pending technology. The company is positioned as a front runner in the industry - an enviable spot further supplemented by key industry relationships. MGX Minerals has established partnerships with major oil and gas companies and has acquired more than 1.5 million acres of land in regions neighboring oil fields across Canada and the United States.
MGX Minerals' petrolithium extraction process is based on proprietary technology developed by its engineering partner PurLucid Treatment Solutions, which separates oil from the petroleum brine that contains lithium while also treating the resulting wastewater for reuse as clean water. The company recently reported a major advancement in the development of its filtration and extraction technology after PurLucid successfully upgraded petrolithium brine from one of the company's largest assets - the Sturgeon Lake Petro Lithium Project in Alberta, Canada. By using a new process that concentrates lithium while removing contaminants, PurLucid was able to upgrade brine from a concentration of 67mg/L Li to 1600mg/L Li during the filtration and pre-treatment stage of the extraction process. MGX and PurLucid are preparing for deployment of this technology, which has the potential to significantly lower the cost of the entire petrolithium process.
With high energy density that makes them ideal for use in portable equipment, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are used mostly in electronics such as laptops, mobile phones, gaming equipment, etc. The largest industrial consumer of lithium in this sector is Panasonic Corporation (OTC: PCRFY), which manufactures a wide range of electronics powered by rechargeable batteries. The growing popularity of electric vehicles has made the automotive industry another large consumer of lithium, with Tesla (TSLA) the main driving force in this particular segment. Tesla is producing a wide range of electric vehicles and also has plans to start manufacturing its own lithium-ion batteries, in collaboration with Panasonic. According to an Allied Market Research report (http://nnw.fm/b5eTY), the global lithium-ion battery market is expected to continue expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 10.8 percent and reach $46.21 billion by 2022. This is obviously positive news for the lithium mining market, as both lithium prices and well-positioned associated mining companies are likely to continue growing.
Arguably the largest lithium producer in the world at the moment is Albermarle (NYSE: ALB), a specialty chemical company whose portfolio also includes bromine specialties, refining catalysts, fine chemistry services and more. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Albermarle became a lithium superpower after acquiring Rockwood Holdings in January 2015, which gave it control over about 35 percent of the world's lithium market. It is estimated that the company's lithium sales were about $508.8 million in 2015, considerably higher than what other industry players reported. Albermarle extracts its lithium from three primary sources: Silver Peak, Nevada; Salar de Atacama, Chile, and a 49 percent stake in Talison Lithium's hard-rock Greenbushes mine in Australia. The company recently announced plans to expand operations at Greenbushes and more than double the production of lithium carbonate there from 80,000 metric tons to over 160,000 metric tons per year.
With a strong global presence in various industries and applications, Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (NYSE: SQM) is currently the second largest lithium producer in the world, holding about 22 percent of the market. Although the Chile-based company faced some challenges in 2015, including being part of a broader corruption scandal in the country, its lithium revenue business continued to grow, generating revenues of more than $223 million. The same trend continued in the first half of 2016, when SQM reported a 92.1 percent increase in its lithium and derivatives business revenue. The company extracts its lithium from underground brine at Chile's Atacama Salt Desert. Last year, SQM partnered with Lithium Americas Corp. (OTC: LACDF) to develop a lithium project in Jujuy, Argentina - the company's first lithium production investment outside Chile.
Often listed as the third largest player in the industry alongside Albemarle and SQM, FMC Corporation (NYSE: FMC) had lithium segment revenues of $238 million in 2015, and reported an 11.5 percent increase in the first six months of 2016. The company extracts its lithium from its own source, the Salar del Hombre Muerto in Argentina, and also runs its own processing and production facilities where it refined lithium carbonate obtained from lithium chloride into other products such as lithium hydroxide, lithium metals, hypochloride and bromide. FMC Corporation has a proprietary brine extraction technique that reportedly generates the highest-purity lithium available in the entire industry. Met with growing demand, the company is looking to diversify its supply sources and has recently signed a long-term supply agreement with Nemaska Lithium, Inc., under which the Canadian company will provide FMC with 8,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate a year.
Another important, although smaller lithium producer is Australia's Galaxy Resources Limited (NYSE: GALXF), with extraction projects in Argentina, Canada and Western Australia. Anticipating a growing demand for the mineral, the company is positioning itself to become a key supplier of high-quality lithium by continuing to develop and expand its current assets. Galaxy Resources Limited owns and recently commenced operations at Western Australia's Mt Cattlin Spodumene Mine and Quebec, Canada's James Bay Lithium Pegmatite Project. In addition, the company is expanding operations at Argentina's Sal de Vida project located in the so-called Lithium Triangle, which accounts for approximately 60 percent of the world's lithium production.
The above companies, among others, are focused on addressing growing demand for lithium; however, there is another component to consider when exploring plays in this sector. Consider this: according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, each year 20-30 billion barrels of brine are generated by oil and gas production operations, which is 70 times the volume of all liquid hazardous wastes generated in the United States. As such, the global oil industry is hungry for technology to cost-effectively treat oil wastewater in an environmentally friendly manner.
With its successful extraction of lithium from oil field brine, MGX Minerals has a first-mover advantage to answer the call for efficient wastewater treatment as well as meet the demand for lithium and its growing applications - an achievement that would benefit the environment, oil and gas producers around the world, and company shareholders. For solution providers like MGX Minerals, the potential here is incredible.
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