$84 Billion Worth Of Trapped Lithium

The Mission E Cross Turismo - AFP

By. Ian Jenkins

The electric car revolution is driving a lithium-ion battery boom that could be worth $67 billion by 2022 - as long as a supply crunch doesn't choke it to death. Included in today's commentary: Newmont Mining Corp NEM, +1.47% Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd AEM, +0.88% Pengrowth Energy Corp. PGH, +5.92% Franco-Nevada Corporation FNV, +0.59% Celestica Inc. CLS, +0.58%
Thankfully, International Battery Metals Ltd. (IBAT: RHHNF) is seeking to revolutionize the economics of Lithium extraction.
Traditional solar evaporation technology takes up to 24 months to extract lithium from metal heavy brine. IBAT's incoming CEO John Burba says he can do it in 24 hours.
Not only that - traditional methods only recover 40 percent of the resource. With their new tech, IBAT can achieve lithium extraction rates of over 90 percent.
Elon Musk even offered $325 million to acquire the CEO's previous company - which was based on an earlier version of the advanced technology that IBAT's will use.
A major New York Global Investment Bank valued the same company at 7X that number at $2.5 billion. Fortunately for investors now, the deal was never completed.
That's why we're so interested in the International Battery Metals story.
Here are 5 reasons why you should be paying attention:
  • The Coming Lithium Megaboom.  
  • Game Changing Extraction Tech 
  • An $84 Billion partnership Opportunity 
  • Massive Interest From Tesla Motors 
  • A Veteran Team Of Lithium Pioneers 
The Lithium Megaboom  
We're witnessing an explosion in global demand for Lithium, and supply isn't even close to keeping up. That's why Lithium spot prices have nearly tripled since 2015.
The price per metric ton in Chinese spot markets is up from $6,500 to over $20,000.
Lithium's wild ride is just beginning. Demand for the metal is set to soar in coming years, and we believe that represents a massive investor opportunity.
The global battery market is set to hit $120 billion in less than two years.
Electric car production is expected to increase more than thirtyfold by 2030, hitting 24.4 million in annual vehicle sales - up from under 1 million today.
The Tesla 70kWh Model S battery pack contains 63Kg of lithium, equivalent to the amount of lithium in 10,000 cellphones.
The problem? Production capacity is now at a critical juncture. Unfortunately, recovery of Lithium from brine deposits is a painfully slow process. Traditional solar evaporation technology is an extremely time-intensive process, with a lengthy production cycle that can exceed 18 months. It takes a minimum of 4 years for an average Lithium brine mine to come online-- and another 3-4 years to reach full capacity.
The total investment in new mines will likely range from $350 billion to $750 billion, according to analysts at researcher Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
Even that won't bring enough capacity online.
Game Changing Lithium Extraction Technology 
International Battery Metals (ibat:RHHNF) will soon have the solution.
The technology that International Battery Metals has contracted to acquire could be a significant key to unlocking $84 billion in lithium brine resources-by making it faster and cheaper to produce.
Lithium is currently produced through a grueling 18-24-month solar evaporation process that entails slowly extracting all other elements from the brine until only lithium remains. The biggest problem with this reality is that the expansion of plants to produce more lithium will be painfully slow and require construction of thousands of acres of new evaporation ponds.
IBAT's soon-to-be-acquired technology is designed to do the opposite, removing evaporation ponds from the equation.
The proven method will reduce extraction times to as little as 24 hours. Better still - it will improve recovery from roughly 40 percent to over 90 percent of all lithium. As inventor and incoming CEO John Burba puts it: "Our tech has such a high specificity for lithium that it can directly take the lithium out. Selective Absorption, the core of our process is the only commercially proven technology that can make this claim".
Instead of going the traditional route of trying to isolate lithium by removing all of those complex ions, the tech removes the Lithium directly.
According to incoming IBAT CEO John Burba, the mastermind of this technology, the process takes the lithium out on a continuous basis.
As the brine goes by, it collects lithium and lets the other impurities continue on and go straight back into the ground. The end-product is a diluted stream of lithium chloride and water that comes out as the brine goes by.
The whole extraction process takes 24 hours, so it would mean the end of 18-24- month residencies. That's a game changer for lithium. Burba says: "Once we have proved our patent pending fourth-generation technology, we will be able to expand production in a fraction of the time it will take for solar evaporation. This ability will be critical to being able to keep up with the expected demand curve for battery grade lithium products".
Unlocking $84 Billion Worth Of Lithium  
Lithium brine deposits are estimated to contain 66 percent of the world's 14 million metric tonnes (MT) of Lithium. That's Lithium worth $84 billion at current prices.
With their soon-to-be acquired extraction breakthrough, International Battery Metals (IBAT: RHHNF) could be the fastest-producing lithium company in the world. Faster means more efficient and cost effective.
While new entrants are struggling with costs, IBAT's technology could put it on cost par with the Big 3 lithium producers-the lowest-cost producers right now. That includes Albemarle Corp, Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile) and FMC.
But, there's a bigger opportunity than just production.
If proved up this technology could be highly disruptive, offering one of the fastest-to- production Lithium brine extraction solutions out there.
That's an enormous opportunity, and the industry is taking notice.
How This Play Was Almost Taken Off The Market 
Investors came very close to missing out John Burba's genius entirely when his previous company was nearly acquired in 2014.  
Tesla Motors will use up the entire world's supply of battery-grade lithium when it hits annual production of 500K Model 3s in its Nevada Gigafactory later in 2018. Elon Musk offered $325 million for Burba's earlier start-up - the lithium extraction company Simbol Materials, in an effort to bolster his supply.
Musk wrote, "this is a compelling opportunity to combine two innovative companies on a mission to advance clean and sustainable energy technologies worldwide."
A New York Global Investment Bank valued Simbol at $2.5 billion.
Fortunately - the deal never closed.
A Veteran Team o f Lithium Pioneers 
Inventor John Burba-a veteran in lithium extraction-is the incoming IBAT (ibat:RHHNF) Chairman and CEO. He's an extraction tech pioneer, and he is bringing a Dream Team of engineering experts to further enhance the new extraction technology that IBAT is acquiring.
IBAT's new to-be-acquired technology is actually based on tech that Burba co-invented and sold in the 1990s when he was a leading technologist at lithium giant FMC.
Burba has since made dramatic advancements on the core technology. This has yielded significant improvements in terms of extraction efficiency, cost and purity.
He's also founder of one gold-mining company Crystallex.
Globally, demand for lithium is skyrocketing. With battery demand forecast to rise 7.7 percent to $120 billion already in 2019, this is a market on the move.
What the world needs right now is plentiful supply of high-grade lithium to power that growth, and it won't wait 12-24 months for evaporating ponds.
With electric vehicles rapidly soaring in popularity, the lithium battery market could be at $46 billion by 2022.
The technology to be acquired by International Battery Metals (IBAT: RHHNF) could be a game changer. It could allow extraction of over 90 percent of the metal from lithium brine continuously with a very small environmental foot print.  
This could be the solution the industry has been waiting for. Other top plays in energy technology and mining: 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. Agnico Eagle Mines LtdAEM, +0.88% Canadian based gold producer, 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. Pengrowth Energy Corp. PGH, +5.92% : Another company that looks to have halted its falling stock price and is now preparing to ride the bullish sentiment in oil markets. Having shed a lot of excess weight this year in massive asset selloffs, investors can expect a much leaner and meaner Pengrowth in 2018.Franco-Nevada Corporation FNV, +0.59% specializes in securing precious-metal streams, but the company also works in the oil and gas industry. With key assets in some of North America's most desirable oil and gas plays, including Texas, Oklahoma and Alberta, it is clear that the company has amazing potential in the coming years.
Celestica Inc. CLS, +0.58% is a manufacturer of electrical devices used in IT, telecommunications, healthcare, defense and aerospace industries. The company has seen strong growth YoY which we expect to continue as the sales expectations are almost 3% better than last year's.

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