China’s Ceramic Makers Started Supplying Lithium for Batteries

Chinese ceramic manufacturers have started switching to supply lithium for the battery industry as prices of the white metal continue climbing. Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers and battery makers have been scrambling to find additional supplies of lithium since prices have surged and the industry has hit limits on capacity to refine raw materials into specialist chemicals. That spurred ceramic producers in China’s Gao’an city to switch from manufacturing their traditional products to making lithium briquettes that can be further processed into chemicals used in battery production.

The switch reflects the ceramics industry’s struggles since China’s property market crashed, while also showing how the battery supply chain is looking at every available place to find new sources of lithium raw materials.

Prices of lithium carbonate have more than doubled since the start of the year in China and rose to a new record of 587,500 yuan ($81,349) a ton on Friday. Ganfeng Lithium and Tianqi Lithium, China’s top two lithium producers, both posted major gains in quarterly profits last month.

Lithium is used in ceramic production to help strengthen the products. Together with glass industry, ceramics still account for about 14% of all lithium demand. However, that has halved in the past decade with skyrocketing demand for batteries.

As prices of the battery metal reached a record, ceramics companies make lithium-containing bricks and sell them back to the refineries as raw material.

While the volume of lithium supply being added from the converted ceramics lines will be limited, it’s a shift that illustrates the ongoing strength of demand in the world’s key hub of electric-car batteries.

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