What you need to know about lithium and which ASX shares are cashing in on it

What you need to know about lithium and which ASX shares are cashing in on it

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There are several dozen ASX shares that are on the hunt for lithium. A handful of others are in the pre-production stages.

But only three ASX shares are currently actually producing the metal.

We take a look at those below.

But first…

What is lithium?

Lithium is a lightweight, malleable alkali metal, silvery in colour.

Historically it’s been used to increase the heat resistance of glass and ceramics. Lithium salts are also used as antidepressants.

But it’s lithium’s high level of heat and electricity conductivity that has seen demand boom alongside the fast-growing lithium-ion battery market. Batteries that power most every electric vehicle (EV) on the road.

Lithium’s crucial role in the transition to renewables has seen the Australian government list the metal as a critical mineral.

The metal is primarily mined from ore and brines, with Australia, Chile, China and Argentina holding the largest deposits.

The government reports that Australia has high geological potential for lithium, with a 2020 Economic Demonstrated Resource of 6.17 million tons. In 2020, Australia produced 40,000 tons of lithium out of total global production of 82,000 tons.

So, which three ASX shares are producing lithium?

Three ASX shares cashing in on lithium

Taking them in alphabetical order, we start with Allkem Ltd (ASX: AKE), former known as Orocobre.

Allkem has a market cap of just under $6.6 billion. Based in Brisbane, its projects are primarily located in Argentina. The company supplies lithium carbonate to a variety of industrial and technical sectors, supplying roughly 10% of the global lithium market.

Allkem claims to be among the lowest-cost lithium producers in the world. The company intends to ramp up production by three times its current levels by 2026.

The Allkem share price is up 72% over the past 12 months.

The second ASX share already producing lithium is Mineral Resources Limited (ASX: MIN), with a market cap of $10.1 billion.

Though you may think of Mineral Resources as a mining services company, which it is, the company also has a large footprint in the lithium space. Its operations in Western Australia are Mt Marion, located in the Goldfields; and Wodgina, in the Pilbara region.

The company mines and produces both direct shipping ore lithium and spodumene concentrate.

The Mineral Resources share price is up 8% since this time last year.

Moving on to our third ASX share in the production stage for lithium, we have Pilbara Minerals Ltd (ASX: PLS), which has a market cap of $6.3 billion.

Pilbara’s flagship Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project is also located in the Pilbara region of WA.

Pilgangora project counts amongst the largest hard-rock lithium-tantalum deposits in the world. Pilbara Minerals has big expansion plans for the project. It forecasts spodumene concentrate capacity at Pilgangoora to increase to 560,000 to 580,000 dry metric tons (dmt) this year.

The Pilbara share price is up 57% over the past 12 months.

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