Ioneer

Ioneer's expanded partnership with EcoPro to bolster U.S. lithium production

Highlights:

  • Binding lithium clay Research and Development Memorandum of Understanding signed with Korea's EcoPro Innovation Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of the EcoPro Group of Companies, will research, test, and develop lithium clay (M5) at Ioneer's Rhyolite Ridge site in rural Nevada.
  • The MOU provides an opportunity for Rhyolite Ridge to accelerate technical activities and the potential commercialisation of the 1MT (million tonnes) lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) clay resource within the soon-to-be-permitted Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project.
  • The agreement includes the funding from EcoPro for a commercial lithium hydroxide refining plant once the process is successfully developed.

Today , Ioneer Ltd (Ioneer or the Company) (ASX: INR, NASDAQ IONR), an emerging lithium–boron producer , and EcoPro Innovation Co Ltd ("EcoPro"), a global leader in battery grade high purity lithium hydroxide conversion, signed a Research and Development ("R&D") Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU").

EcoPro will conduct research and development on the lithium clay resource one of three distinct styles of lithium mineralisation found at Ioneer's Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron project ("Rhyolite Ridge"). The goal will be to develop a process to commercialise Rhyolite Ridge lithium clay to produce refined lithium materials for the U.S. EV battery supply chain.

Stage 1 of Rhyolite Ridge focuses on searlesite (high lithium, high boron) mineralisation while the lithium clay mineralisation will be extracted and set aside. Stage 1 is in the final phase of U.S. federal review process. For Stage 1, Ioneer will produce an annual average of approximately 20,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate alongside approximately 174,400 tonnes of boric acid per year during the mine's 26-year life 1 . Any production from the activities contemplated by this MOU would be incremental.

Ioneer Executive Chairman, James Calaway, said, "We are delighted to build upon our partnership with EcoPro. We look forward to accelerating development of another layer of Rhyolite Ridge mineralisation. This partnership provides Ioneer additional financial flexibility to focus on delivering its core investment at Rhyolite Ridge as well as develop growth opportunities. The ultimate goal of EcoPro and Ioneer is to increase the supply of refined lithium materials for the U.S. EV supply chain and create hundreds of good-paying jobs in Nevada and beyond."

EcoPro Innovation President Anthony Kim, said, "Lithium extraction technology is not just a process of selectively extracting lithium but a complex and difficult technology that requires removing uncertain impurities. EcoPro Innovation has an original patent for lithium extraction from waste batteries and launched its business in EcoPro Group. EcoPro Innovation is a technology-competitive company with a number of source patents in hydromet processes. We will perform well as soon as possible to gain the upper hand from other competitors."

As part of the new agreement, EcoPro has agreed to fund and build a commercial-scale refining plant to develop lithium clay supplied from Rhyolite Ridge. The lithium clay raw material would be supplied at no cost to EcoPro, and the profits from the commercial refining plant would be equally shared between EcoPro and Rhyolite Ridge. Under the agreement, the MOU will be managed by a jointly developed Project Committee.

Once operational, Stage 1 of Rhyolite Ridge will quadruple the current U.S. supply of lithium and help to rebalance the global production of boric acid. Upon anticipated completion of the U.S. federal permitting process, construction at Rhyolite Ridge, largely funded through the combination of conditional commitments of $490 million USD in equity from Sibanye-Stillwater and a $700 million USD conditional loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office, is set to begin in 2024. Lithium production is expected to follow in 2026.

This ASX release has been authorised by Ioneer Managing Director, Bernard Rowe.

About Ioneer

Ioneer Ltd is the 100% owner of the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project located in Nevada, USA, the only known lithium-boron deposit in North America and one of only two known such deposits in the world. The Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) completed in 2020 confirmed Rhyolite Ridge as a world-class lithium and boron project that is expected to become a globally significant, long-life, low-cost source of lithium and boron vital to a sustainable future.

In September 2021, Ioneer entered into an agreement with Sibanye-Stillwater where, following the satisfaction of conditions precedent, Sibanye-Stillwater will acquire a 50% interest in the Project, with Ioneer maintaining a 50% interest and retaining the operational management responsibility for the joint venture. In January 2023, Ioneer received a conditional commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Programs Office for up to $700 million of debt financing. Ioneer signed separate offtake agreements with Ford Motor Company and PPES (joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic) in 2022 and Korea's EcoPro Innovation in 2021.

To learn more about Ioneer, visit www.Ioneer.com/investors .

About EcoPro Innovation Co. Ltd

EcoPro Group is a global leader in battery materials manufacturing, supplying cathode/precursor/lithium hydroxide to automotive OEMs, Korean and Japanese cell manufacturers, and others. EcoPro Group has built a Closed Loop System which includes the recycling of used batteries to precursor, lithium hydroxide, and finally, high-nickel cathode active materials.

EcoPro Innovation Co Ltd is a subsidiary of The EcoPro Holdings, and the EcoPro Group includes EcoPro BM, EcoPro HN, EcoPro Materials, EcoPro AP, EcoPro EM, EcoPro CNG, and EcoPro Innovation. EcoPro BM develops and manufactures high-nickel cathode materials and other products. EcoPro BM is a company which leads the high-volume cathode material market in Korea and abroad based on its success in developing and mass-producing high-nickel cathode materials in Korea. EcoPro Innovation specializes in battery grade high purity lithium hydroxide conversion. EcoPro Innovation has secured a value chain for lithium cells by developing, manufacturing, and processing technologies for lithium compounds, which is a core material of lithium cells.

1 Refer ASX release titled ‘ioneer Delivers Definitive Feasibility Study that Confirms Rhyolite Ridge as a World-Class Lithium and Boron Project' announced 30 April 2020.

Ioneer Contacts:

Chad Yeftich
Ioneer USA Corporation
Investor Relations (USA)
E: ir@Ioneer.com

Daniel Francis
FGS Global

Media Relations (USA)
E: daniel.francis@fgsglobal.com

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SQM REPORTS EARNINGS FOR THE TWELVE MONTHS ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2023

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Highlights

Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM) (NYSE: SQM; Santiago Stock Exchange: SQM-B, SQM-A) reported today earnings for the twelve months ended December 31, 2023 , of US$2,012.7 million ( US$7.05 per ADR), a decrease of approximately 48.5% from US$3,906.3 million ( US$13.68 per ADR) for the twelve months ended December 31, 2022 .

Gross profit reached US$3,075.1 million (41.2% of revenues) for the twelve months ended December 31, 2023 , lower than US$5,736.6 million (53.6% of revenues) recorded for the twelve months ended December 31, 2022 . Revenues totaled US$7,467.5 million for the twelve months ended December 31, 2023 , representing a decrease of approximately 30.3% compared to US$10,710.6 million reported for the twelve months ended December 31, 2022 .

The Company also announced earnings for the fourth quarter of 2023 of US$203.2 million ( US$0.71 per share), a decrease of approximately 82.3% compared to US$1,151.0 million ( US$4.03 per share) for the fourth quarter of 2022. Gross profit for the fourth quarter of 2023 reached US$400.7 million , approximately 75.6% lower than the US$1,641.9 million reported for the fourth quarter 2022. Revenues totaled US$1,311.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2023, a decrease of approximately 58.1% compared to US$3,133.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2022.

SQM's Chief Executive Officer, Ricardo Ramos , stated: "Our fourth quarter 2023 results reflected record-high sales volumes in lithium business and increased sales volumes in iodine and potassium business lines when compared to the previous quarter and the same period last year. Despite a downturn in lithium market prices when compared to the previous year, our focus on operational efficiency and ability to successfully execute capacity expansion projects have facilitated notable production growth in lithium and iodine businesses over the past year. While we continue with our expansions in Chile and expect our lithium carbonate capacity to reach 210,000 metric tons during the first quarter of this year, we also celebrated first production of spodumene concentrate at our Mt. Holland operation site during the fourth quarter of 2023. In the iodine business, as a result of successful start-up of Pampa Blanca operation, record-high production volumes were achieved during the year, reconfirming SQM´s position as industry leader with ability to deliver growth ahead of competition."

He continued by saying: "As we enter into 2024, we anticipate another robust year of growth in lithium market, with global demand increasing by at least 20%, supported by electric vehicle sales growth globally and increasing demand for battery materials. However, the excess in lithium and battery materials capacity seen during last year is expected to continue during this year, keeping pressure on lithium market prices. We expect our average lithium prices to remain relatively stable throughout the year and our sales volumes to increase slightly during this year, subject to market conditions and any changes in supply-demand balance."

He finished by saying: "In December last year, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Codelco to jointly develop the Salar Futuro project and sustainably operate in the Salar de Atacama beyond 2030. Together with the communities, we are working on the definitive documentation in the upcoming months and will inform the market once this process is concluded. Last year, SQM was included into both DJSI World and Emerging Markets indices, several years ahead of our internal goal. This is the result of ongoing work and our commitments to increase the transparency and sustainability of our operations."

Total capital expenditure in 2023 was close to US$1.1 billion . For the period 2024-2025, total capex is expected to be approximately US$2.4 billion , including:

  • US$1.4 billion related to lithium capacity expansion projects in Chile , including US$130 million of maintenance.
  • US$700 million related to nitrates and iodine capacity expansion project in Chile , including US$160 million of maintenance.
  • US$340 million related to Mt. Holland lithium project in Australia and exploration projects.

The capex for 2024 is expected to be approximately US$1.3 billion , including maintenance.

About SQM

SQM is a global company that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Santiago Stock Exchange (NYSE: SQM; Santiago Stock Exchange: SQM-B, SQM-A). SQM develops and produces diverse products for several industries essential for human progress, such as health, nutrition, renewable energy and technology through innovation and technological development. We aim to maintain our leading world position in the lithium, potassium nitrate, iodine and thermo-solar salts markets.

For further information, contact:

Gerardo Illanes / gerardo.illanes@sqm.com
Irina Axenova  / irina.axenova@sqm.com
Isabel Bendeck / isabel.bendeck@sqm.com

For media inquiries, contact:

Maria Ignacia Lopez / ignacia.lopez@sqm.com
Pablo Pisani / pablo.pisani@sqm.com

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as: "anticipate," "plan," "believe," "estimate," "expect," "strategy," "should," "will" and similar references to future periods. Examples of forward-looking statements include, among others, statements we make concerning the implementation of the MoU and potential partnership with Codelco, the development of Salar Futuro Project, Company's capital expenditures, financing sources, Sustainable Development Plan, business and demand outlook, future economic performance, anticipated sales volumes, profitability, revenues, expenses, or other financial items, anticipated cost synergies and product or service line growth.

Forward-looking statements are neither historical facts nor assurances of future performance. Instead, they are estimates that reflect the best judgment of SQM management based on currently available information. Because forward-looking statements relate to the future, they involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors that are outside of our control and could cause actual results to differ materially from those stated in such statements, including our ability to successfully implement the Sustainable Development Plan. Therefore, you should not rely on any of these forward-looking statements. Readers are referred to the documents filed by SQM with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, including the most recent annual report on Form 20-F, which identifies other important risk factors that could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are based on information available to SQM on the date hereof and SQM assumes no obligation to update such statements, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise, except as required by law.

Cision View original content: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sqm-reports-earnings-for-the-twelve-months-ended-december-31-2023-302075007.html

SOURCE Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile , S.A. (SQM)

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