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World Faces Shortage of Lithium for Electric Vehicle Batteries

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Lithium is in hot demand due to rapidly growing production of electric vehicles that use lithium-ion batteries, but there is a global supply shortage of the metal, with western countries racing to bring on new mines to compete with China.

The Serbian government on Thursday cancelled licenses for a major lithium project owned by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Plc, which industry experts said is likely to prolong the supply shortage to mid-decade.

Following are some key facts on major mines and lithium supply based on data from Australia’s Department of Industry, the US Geological Survey, company reports and a Credit Suisse report.

Production

Lithium is currently produced from hard rock or brine mines. Australia is the world’s biggest supplier, with production from hard rock mines. Argentina, Chile, and China is mainly producing it from salt lakes.

Total global production, measured as lithium carbonate equivalent, was forecast in December at 485,000 tonnes in 2021, growing to 615,000 tonnes in 2022 and 821,000 tonnes in 2023, according to Australia’s Department of Industry.

Credit Suisse analysts are more conservative, seeing 2022 output at 588,000 tonnes, and 2023 at 736,000 tonnes, and forecast demand outpacing supply growth, with demand at 689,000 tonnes in 2022 and 902,000 tonnes in 2023, with about two-thirds of that for electric vehicle batteries.

Lithium prices

Lithium carbonate prices have rocketed to record highs over the past year due to strong demand from Chinese battery makers.

Global top 10 producer Allkem said on Jan. 18 it expects pricing in the half-year to June to jump to around $20,000 (roughly Rs. 15 lakh) a tonne at point of loading, up about 80% from the half-year to December 2021.

World’s biggest mines

Greenbushes, Western Australia, Talison Lithium (a joint venture of Tianqi Lithium, IGO, and Albemarle. Current production capacity at 1.34 million tonnes a year of chemical-grade and technical-grade lithium concentrate.

Pilgangoora, Western Australia, owned by Pilbara Minerals, expects to produced 400,000-450,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate in the year to June 2022.

Mt Cattlin, Western Australia, owned by Allkem, the company formed from the merger of Orocobre and Galaxy Resources, produced 230,065 tonnes of spodumene concentrate in 2021.

Mibra, Minas Gerais, Brazil, owned by Advanced Metallurgical Group, producing 90,000 tonnes a year of spodumene.

Mount Marion, Western Australia, owned by Mineral Resources Ltd, is on track to produce 450,000-475,000 tonnes of spodumene in the year to June 2022.

Salar de Atacama, Antofagasta, Chile, owned by Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), producing 110,000 tons a year of lithium carbonate.

Chaerhan Lake Mine, in Qinghai, China, owned by Qinghai Salt Lake BYD Resources Development Co, 10,000 tonnes a year capacity of lithium carbonate

Yajiang Cuola Mine, Sichuan, China, owned by Tianqi Lithium, 10,000 tonnes a year capacity.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Further reading: Lithium, Lithium ion battery

 

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Yemen Goes Offline, Loses Internet Connection After Saudi-Led Airstrikes

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Yemen lost its connection to the Internet nationwide early Friday after Saudi-led airstrikes targeted the contested city of Hodeida, an advocacy group said, plunging the war-torn nation offline.

NetBlocks said the disruption began around 1am (3:30am IST) local and affected TeleYemen, the state-owned monopoly that controls Internet access in the country. TeleYemen is now run by the Houthi rebels who have held Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since late 2014.

Yemen faces “a nation-scale collapse of Internet connectivity” after an airstrike on a telecommunications building, NetBlocks said.

The San Diego-based Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis and San Francisco-based Internet firm CloudFlare also noted a nationwide outage affecting Yemen beginning around the same time.

Over 12 hours later, the Internet remained down.

The Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel said the strike on the telecommunications building had killed and wounded people. It released chaotic footage of people digging through rubble for a body as gunshots could be heard. Aid workers assisted bloodied survivors.

Meanwhile, Al-Masirah said another early Friday airstrike on a prison in Yemen’s northern Saada province also killed and wounded people. There was no immediate independent confirmation of how many people were hurt in either attack.

The Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi rebels acknowledged carrying out “accurate airstrikes to destroy the capabilities of the militia” around Hodeida’s port. It did not immediately acknowledge striking a telecommunication target as NetBlocks described, but instead called Hodeida a hub for piracy and Iranian arms smuggling to back the Houthis.

The undersea FALCON cable carries Internet into Yemen through the Hodeida port along the Red Sea for TeleYemen. The FALCON cable has another landing in Yemen’s far eastern port of Ghaydah as well, but the majority of Yemen’s population lives in its west along the Red Sea.

A cut to the FALCON cable in 2020 caused by a ship’s anchor also caused widespread Internet outages in Yemen. Land cables to Saudi Arabia have been cut since the start of Yemen’s civil war, while connections to two other undersea cables have yet to be made amid the conflict, TeleYemen previously said.

A Saudi-led coalition entered Yemen’s war in 2015 to back its ousted government. The war has turned into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with international criticism of Saudi airstrikes killing civilians and targeting the country’s infrastructure. The Houthis meanwhile have used child soldiers and indiscriminately laid landmines across the country.

The war reached into the United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, on Monday when the Houthis claimed a drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounding six.

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Pegasus Spyware: Israel’s Attorney General Orders Probe of NSO Claims

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Israel’s attorney general said Thursday he was launching an investigation into Israeli police’s use of phone surveillance technology following reports that investigators improperly tracked targets without authorisation.

In a four-page letter, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he had not yet found evidence substantiating the claims in the Israeli business daily Calcalist, which said police monitored the leaders of a protest movement against then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mayors, and other citizens without court approval. But Mandelblit said many questions remained unanswered, and that he was forming an investigative committee headed by a top deputy.

The specific cases mentioned by the newspaper “raise a very troubling picture,” he said, but don’t provide “sufficiently concrete information” to identify the cases of alleged misuse.

Mandelblit’s letter came a few hours after Israel’s police chief said he had ordered an extensive investigation into the newspaper’s claims. In a report this week, Calcalist said police had used the NSO Group’s Pegasus hacking software to surveil some of Netanyahu’s political opponents, as well as a raft of other alleged misuses of the technology.

The police have dismissed the report as inaccurate and said they only operate according to the law. But the publication drew an outcry from lawmakers and prompted multiple investigations by various Israeli authorities into the allegations.

The NSO Group does not identify its clients and says it has no knowledge of who is targeted. The company says its products are intended to be used against criminals and terrorists, and that it does not control how its clients use the software. Israel, which regulates the company, has not said whether its own security forces use the spyware.

The Israeli spyware company has faced mounting scrutiny over its Pegasus software, which has been linked to snooping on human rights activists, journalists and politicians across the globe. In November, the US Commerce Department blacklisted NSO, barring the company from using certain US technologies, saying its tools had been used to “conduct transnational repression.”

In announcing his investigation, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said that immediately following the report’s publication, police launched “a thorough internal investigation” that has yet to find any instances of unlawful surveillance. He called on the paper to provide “concrete details that will allow us to inspect the alleged incidents.”

Tuesday’s Calcalist article didn’t name any of the people whose phones were allegedly hacked, nor did it cite any current or former sources in the police, government or NSO. The report referred to eight alleged examples of the police’s secretive signal intelligence unit employing Pegasus to surveil Israeli citizens, including hacking phones of protesters, mayors, a murder suspect and opponents of the Jerusalem Pride Parade, all without a court order or a judge’s oversight.

Shabtai said that “if it turns out that there were specific instances in which regulations were violated, the police under my command will work to improve and correct,” pledging full transparency. At the same time, he defended the police’s lawful use of such technologies to combat crime.

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Further reading: NSO Group, Pegasus, Spyware, Israel

 

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