Lithium Universe (ASX:LU7)

Lithium Universe

ASX:LU7

Closing the Lithium Conversion Gap in North America

​​Company Highlights

  • Focussed on closing the Lithium Conversion Gap in North America by establishing a 16,000 tpa lithium carbonate plant at Bécancour, Québec
  • Definitive feasibility study has commenced and initial metallurgical testing is yielding results greater than battery grade specification.
  • Led by lithium development veteran Iggy Tan, who seeks to replicate his successes at Galaxy Resources with Lithium Universe.
  • The company is composed of lithium industry leaders, named the ‘Lithium Dream Team’, representing multiple decades of combined experience in mining exploration, development, production and operations.
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Overview

Lithium Universe (ASX:LU7) is dedicated to closing the ‘Lithium Conversion Gap’ in North America by developing a mine-to-battery-grade lithium carbonate strategy in Québec, Canada. Our mission is to support the supply chain needs of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), particularly in the automotive sector, by converting spodumene supply into lithium chemicals for EV battery plants North America.

Our business model focuses on converting spodumene supplies under "take or pay" agreements with OEMs. These agreements include protective pricing mechanisms, such as floor and ceiling prices, to ensure stable margins and mitigate market volatility. This approach guarantees our LU7 refinery's payback while providing OEMs with a reliable and sustainable supply of lithium chemicals.

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Overview

Lithium Universe (ASX:LU7) is dedicated to closing the ‘Lithium Conversion Gap’ in North America by developing a mine-to-battery-grade lithium carbonate strategy in Québec, Canada. Our mission is to support the supply chain needs of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), particularly in the automotive sector, by converting spodumene supply into lithium chemicals for EV battery plants North America.

Our business model focuses on converting spodumene supplies under "take or pay" agreements with OEMs. These agreements include protective pricing mechanisms, such as floor and ceiling prices, to ensure stable margins and mitigate market volatility. This approach guarantees our LU7 refinery's payback while providing OEMs with a reliable and sustainable supply of lithium chemicals.

Company Highlights

  • Focussed on closing the Lithium Conversion Gap in North America by establishing a 16,000 tpa lithium carbonate plant at Bécancour, Québec
  • Definitive feasibility study has commenced and initial metallurgical testing is yielding results greater than battery grade specification.
  • Led by lithium development veteran Iggy Tan, who seeks to replicate his successes at Galaxy Resources with Lithium Universe.
  • The company is composed of lithium industry leaders, named the ‘Lithium Dream Team’, representing multiple decades of combined experience in mining exploration, development, production and operations.

The ’Lithium Conversion Gap’

North America anticipates a surge in battery manufacturing, with over 20 major manufacturers planning to deploy an estimated 1,000 GW of battery capacity. These are companies such as General Motors, LG Energy Solution, Ford, Power Co, Northvolt, Tesla, AESC, Toyota and Honda. Assuming the planned battery manufacturing capacity of 1,000 GW by 2028, using a ratio of 850 g lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) per KWh, the company estimates that 850,000 tons of LCE per annum will be required to satisfy demand in North America.

On the supply side, Canada has surpassed China to claim the top spot in BloombergNEF’s Global Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Chain Ranking, a comprehensive annual evaluation of 30 countries’ potential to develop secure, reliable, and sustainable lithium-ion battery supply chains. Québec has been established as one of the most prospective regions with over 40 companies dedicated to lithium exploration and development. The cumulative lithium resource in just Québec exceeds 500Mt at +1 percent lithium oxide across eight distinct projects, which has increased over 100 percent within the last 12 months. Many companies have plans to develop mines and concentrating facilities to produce spodumene concentrate.

Projected US EV Battery Demand

Figure 1: Projected US EV Battery Demand and Announced Battery Production Capacity (2022-2032)

[Source: US Department of Energy, January 2023]

Spodumene concentrate needs to be converted to battery-grade lithium carbonate or hydroxide to be used in the production of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries. Currently, there are no operational converters in North America and the company estimates approximately only 100,000 tons of planned hard rock converters are slated for construction in the region. The region seeks to decrease dependence on Chinese lithium converters, aligning with both commercial and national security goals. Canada, acknowledging the significance of energy security, has intensified efforts to reduce Chinese involvement in the sector as part of a “decoupling” or “de-risking” strategy, mirroring the actions taken by the United States.

The ’Lithium Dream Team’

The company’s strategy involves assembling a seasoned team of lithium experts renowned for rapidly delivering successful projects, dubbed the 'Lithium Dream Team', boasting extensive expertise in both hard rock lithium extraction and downstream operations, all within a single company.

Lithium Universe is headed by the chairman, Iggy Tan, who is considered a pioneer in the modern lithium industry. Over 20 years ago, Tan was one of the first Australian mining executives to recognize the potential of the emerging lithium-ion battery industry. He led Galaxy Resources and built the Mt Cattlin spodumene project (137,000 tpa of spodumene product) and the downstream Jiangsu lithium carbonate project (with a capacity of 17,000 tpa). This was the first large-scale vertically integrated, mine-to-battery-grade lithium carbonate project in the world.

Lithium Dream Team

Joining Iggy on the board are Pat Scallan and Dr. Jingyuan Liu. Scallan is a seasoned veteran of the lithium industry with over 25 years of managing the world-class Greenbushes Mine. He oversaw the mine's many expansions, increasing annual output from 200,000 in 1997 to over 1.4 million tpa today. Liu is widely regarded as a leading technical expert in the lithium industry. He was previously the general manager of development and technologies at Galaxy Resources, where he was responsible for overseeing the construction and commissioning of the Mt Cattlin spodumene project and the world-renowned Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant. Liu has acted as a special adviser to various lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide projects globally.

Additional Dream Team members include: Terry Stark, who previously served as the general manager of operations for both Mt Cattlin and James Bay projects; Roger Pover, with extensive experience as plant manager at Greenbushes and Mt Cattlin; and Huy Nguyen, known for his expertise in the design and construction of the Mt Cattlin mine. John Loxton, who was involved in the construction of the Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant for Hatch Engineering, has also joined the company. John Sobolewski, former CFO and company secretary of Galaxy Resources pivotal in financing both projects, assumes the role of chief financial officer role at Lithium Universe, marking a significant addition to the LU7 team's financial expertise in the lithium domain.

Lithium Carbonate Refinery

The Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant was designed to produce 17,000 tpa of battery-grade lithium carbonate. It adopted advanced Western style continuous process control techniques, setting a standard for lithium refineries globally. The plant now exceeds its design capacity, producing 20,000 tpa, and its battery-grade product ranks among the industry's finest. Constructed and achieving steady-state quality was accomplished within two years of ground-breaking. Lithium Universe plans to replicate the successful design of the Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant entirely, employing the same suppliers, equipment and engineering firm – mitigating the second major risk. Lithium Universe has contracted Hatch Limited to conduct the definitive feasibility study (DFS), the same engineering company responsible for the original design and construction of the Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant.

Lithium Universe is advancing a mine-to-battery-grade lithium carbonate strategy in Canada through the Québec Lithium Processing Hub (QLPH). The QLPH includes a multi-purpose independent 1 Mtpa concentrator and an independent 16,000 tpa battery-grade lithium carbonate refinery. The QLPH concentrator and lithium carbonate plant aim to replicate the proven success of the Mt Cattlin spodumene operation and Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant to minimize startup and operational risks.

The Company\u2019s proposed lithium carbonate refinery

Figure 2: The Company’s proposed lithium carbonate refinery at layout at Bécancour, Québec.

The company has successfully executed an option agreement to acquire a commercial property located within the Bécancour Waterfront Industrial Park (BWIP) between Québec City and Montréal. The industrial land secured is only 2.5 kms to the Bécancour deep-water port, allowing import of spodumene to the facility. The company is taking a significant step towards the production of greener battery-grade lithium carbonate at the proposed Becancour lithium refinery.

Industrial land

As an integral part of the company’s DFS, Lithium Universe has initiated metallurgical testing on various sources of spodumene. This process involves utilizing the flow sheet developed for the Québec Lithium Processing Hub refinery.

Currently, the testing is progressing smoothly, and no challenges have been identified with any of the spodumene samples. Each test program is thorough and spans several weeks, with two complete programs already concluded successfully achieving higher than the international battery grade specification of 99.5 percent lithium carbonate. All impurity levels were well within specification limits.

Management Team

Iggy Tan — Executive Chair

Iggy Tan, a trailblazer of the modern lithium industry, was one of the first Australian mining executives to identify the significant opportunity within the emerging lithium-ion battery sector when he spearheaded Galaxy Resources Limited. Tan is looking to replicate that success with Lithium Universe, having built Galaxy’s Mt Cattlin Spodumene Project and the downstream Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate project. He also acquired the James Bay Spodumene Project in Canada and the Sal de Vida Brine Project in Argentina for Galaxy.

When Tan started at Galaxy, the company’s market capitalization was less than AU$10 million. It rose to AU$2.5 billion when the company merged with Orocobre Limited in August 2021. Tan's previous experience working with lithium dates back to the early 1990s when he briefly managed the Greenbushes Lithium Mine and commissioned the first lithium carbonate plant for Gwalia Consolidated.

Tan has over 30 years of chemical and mining experience and has served as executive director for a number of ASX-listed companies. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern Cross, a Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Australia and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is currently CEO and managing director of Altech Batteries (ASX:ATC,FRA:A3Y)

Alex Hanly — Chief Executive Officer

Alex Hanly has over 10 years of experience in capital delivery and operational management for publicly listed companies within the mining, oil & gas, and manufacturing industries in Australia and Africa. Over the last three years, Hanly held the role of chief executive officer of ASX-listed gold company Polymetals Resources (ASX:POL). He was responsible for the successful IPO of the company, the operational management and the efficient execution of the fast-track strategy.

Hanly has a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Master of Business Administration specialising in global project management.

Patrick Scallan — Non-executive Director

Patrick Scallan’s extensive experience in the lithium industry is a valuable addition to the LGX board. With over 25 years of management experience at the world-class Greenbushes Mine, he is a seasoned veteran. Greenbushes is the largest lithium hard rock mine globally and also hosts the highest-grade ore body in the world. This makes Greenbushes a unique anomaly, as no other lithium deposit worldwide compares to it.

Scallan oversaw the mine’s many expansions, increasing annual output from 200,000 in 1997 to 1.4 million tpa today, and navigated numerous ownership changes during his tenure. He is a specialist in hard rock mining and spodumene concentrating, with downstream relationships with major spodumene converters worldwide.

Scallan is also highly skilled in managing local community relationships, having acted as shire councillor for nearly 20 years during his time at Greenbushes, receiving his Order of Australia Medal for his community and local government contribution. His previous roles include management positions at Capel and Eneabba Mineral Sands in Western Australia and Western Deep Levels Gold Mine in South Africa.

Dr. Jingyuan Liu — Non-executive director

Dr Jingyuan Liu is widely regarded as a leading technical expert in the lithium industry. He previously held the position of general manager of development and technologies at Galaxy Resources, where he was responsible for overseeing the construction and commissioning of the Mt Cattlin Spodumene Project and the world-renowned Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate plant. Liu also played a key role in designing the flow sheet for the Sal de Vida brine project.

Following his work with Galaxy, he has acted as a special adviser to various lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide projects globally, including the Lithium Hydroxide Plant operated by Tianqi in Kwinana, Western Australia.

Liu has over 30 years’ experience in project management, process and equipment design for minerals processing and the chemicals, non-ferrous metals, iron & steel and energy industries, both in Australian and internationally. He was awarded a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Newcastle, Australia and has worked in senior chemical engineering roles with leading companies such as Hatch Engineering and Metso Minerals in Australia and Malaysia.

He is currently chief technology officer for Altech Batteries (ASX:ATC), developing high capacity silicon anode lithium-ion batteries.

Gernot Abl — Executive Director

Gernot Abl was previously a strategic managing director with vast experience in business management, operations and investment for some of the fastest growing industries in the world. After gaining over 15 years of corporate experience, he led the only pure esports play listed on the ASX, Esports Mogul Limited. Abl has a proven background in business management and commercial intuition, initially from working as a management consultant for both Deloitte Consulting and Deloitte Corporate Finance in Perth and Melbourne.

Abl also led the restructure and turnaround of a financially distressed ASX-listed media company and currently holds directorships for a range of start-up companies, offering corporate advisory, project management and commercial negotiation advice to multiple businesses. He has a degree in law and commerce with honours in finance and accounting from the University of Western Australia.

Fadi Diab — Non-executive Director

Fadi Diab was the former head of global payroll at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. There, he managed the global payroll team, which is responsible for 55,000 employees across 15 countries. Diab is an accomplished senior executive recognised for leveraging strong team leadership and development to drive forward progress.

He has a background in human resources, having held the role of executive human resource manager at the Commonwealth Bank, and currently runs an investor relations company.

Diab has a Bachelor of Business, Human Resource Management, and Industrial Relations from the University of Western Sydney and a Master of Business Management from University of Technology Sydney.

John Sobolewski - Chief Financial Officer

John Sobolewski’s experience in the lithium industry offers another valuable addition to the LU7 dream team. At Galaxy Resources, he played a pivotal role during the feasibility, funding, construction and operation phases of the Mt Cattlin Spodumene mine and Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate refinery. He was also crucial in establishing teams and systems in Australia and internationally. His experience in financial modelling and debt modelling for both projects will be critical in Lithium Universe, completing definitive feasibility studies of the Québec Lithium Processing Hub concentrator and lithium carbonate refinery projects.

Sobolewski is a chartered accountant and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. His previous roles include managing director and CEO with Mintrex, CFO and company secretary with Mintrex, Galaxy Resources Limited and Vital Metals Limited, financial controller and company secretary with Croesus Mining NL, and group accountant and company secretary with Titan Resources NL.

Vincent John Fayad — Joint Company Secretary

Vincent John Fayad is a chartered accountant with over 40 years of experience in corporate finance, international M&A, accounting and advisory-related services primarily undertaken by mid-tier accounting firm PKF. In 2016, he established his own firm, Vince Fayad & Associates, to provide accounting and advisory services within Australia and overseas.

Over the last 25 years, Fayad has spent a significant amount of time advising on various transactions, predominantly related to the mining and exploration industries and providing accounting and corporate secretarial experience to mining exploration companies.

Fayad is currently an executive director and joint company secretary of Astute Metals NL (ASX:ASE) and joint company secretary of Greenvale Energy (ASX:GRV). He is also a non-executive director of Nexon Asia Pacific, a telecommunications company, controlled by private equity group EQT.

Kurt Laney — Joint Company Secretary

Kurt Laney is an experienced chartered accountant specialising in the provision of advisory, consultancy, taxation and corporate secretarial services. Laney is currently an associate director of Vince Fayad and Associates, where he provides accounting and taxation services to high-net-worth individuals, family offices, large family-owned businesses and multinational entities.

Laney is also the joint company secretary and CFO of Greenvale Energy Ltd (ASX:GRV) and Astute Metals NL (ASX:ASE), along with several unlisted public companies primarily focused on the tech and mining industries. He has previously served as the company secretary of Polymetals Resources (ASX:POL).

Justin Rivers — Head of Geology

Justin Rivers possesses more than 20 years of senior executive, technical and commercial experience in Africa, Australia, Asia, Arctic, Middle East, North America and South America in the major and junior space, with a particular focus on Iron Ore and Gold. He has a well-tenured strategic and tactical approach to the mining industry with intimate commercial, business development and M&A experience in Tier-1, publicly listed and private equity environments.

Prior to joining Lithium Universe Limited, Rivers held the position of executive director and CEO of Mauritian domiciled private equity company Convertible Resources, driving strategic development of its gold projects in the Siguiri region of northeast Guinea. He has a Bachelor of Science (first class honours) majoring in geology and environmental science from the University of Tasmania.

Terry Stark — Head of Mining

Terry Stark was previously managing director - resources division for Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY), where he was responsible for all of Galaxy’s mineral resources assets such as exploration and mine operations. Stark oversaw the Mt Cattlin construction and subsequent successful start-up. He also managed the Galaxy James Bay project and had a good relationship with the local Cree Nation.

A veteran mining engineer, Stark holds a Bachelor of Applied Science specialising in mining engineering.

John Loxton - Head of Lithium Carbonate Refinery

John Loxton's lithium experience commenced in 2010 with work on the Jiangsu Lithium Carbonate Plant EPCM for Galaxy Resources in China where his responsibilities initially were at a Sponsor level, and further into the project. He was the project manager for the final stages of construction and commissioning. In 2019, Loxton was engaged by Tianqi Lithium as head of projects for the execution of their investment in a lithium hydroxide processing plant in Kwinana, Western Australia. He managed the commissioning of the first train achieving the first product in 2021 and undertook execution planning and establishing a project team for an identical second train in 2022. Loxton is a project manager with over 45 years of experience across a diverse range of energy, industrial, process, civil, and major infrastructure projects.

Roger Pover — Head of Processing

Roger Pover was previously the Mt Cattlin plant manager for Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY). He was part of the commissioning and start up team and operated the plant for many years. Pover also directed all optimisation modifications made at Mt Cattlin.

Pover is a veteran in the lithium industry, having commenced his career at Greenbushes Lithium mine in the early 90s. He has a 45-year career in the mining and chemical processing industries involving mineral sands, alumina refining, lithium, iron ore, tantalum minerals and tin production.

Huy Nguyen — Engineering Manager

Huy Nguyen has been seconded from Mintrex to act as Lithium Universe Limited’s engineering client representative. Mintrex was the lead engineering company that designed and constructed (together with DRA Global) the Mt Cattlin Spodumene Plant.

Nguyen was part of the construction supervision when Mt Cattlin was built, so he is experienced with not only the design but also the construction process that delivered a project on time and on budget.

Nguyen has a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from Curtin University, Master of Business Administration and a member of Engineer Australia.

Victoria Vargas - Director, Lithium Universe Holdings (Canada)

Victoria Vargas brings to Lithium Universe (Holdings) more than 25 years of experience in the North American capital markets, with a significant focus on the Canadian mineral sector. She began her career at Kinross Gold Corporation and joined Alamos Gold in 2004. During her tenure, she played a pivotal role in enhancing investor exposure and facilitating the company's transition from the TSX Venture to the TSX. Before joining Alamos Gold, Vargas worked for H2O Innovation, a Québec-based company focused on providing best-in-class technologies and services for the water and wastewater treatment industry.

*Disclaimer: This profile is sponsored by Lithium Universe ( ASX:LU7 ). This profile provides information which was sourced by the Investing News Network (INN) and approved by Lithium Universe in order to help investors learn more about the company. Lithium Universe is a client of INN. The company's campaign fees pay for INN to create and update this profile.

INN does not provide investment advice and the information on this profile should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security. INN does not endorse or recommend the business, products, services or securities of any company profiled.

The information contained here is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of securities. Readers should conduct their own research for all information publicly available concerning the company. Prior to making any investment decision, it is recommended that readers consult directly with Lithium Universe and seek advice from a qualified investment advisor.

The Conversation (1)
Sylejman Hyseni
Sylejman Hyseni
21 Feb, 2024

Very good for exploration lithium.

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