Top 3 US Lithium Stocks of 2023

Lithium Investing
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The year has been an exciting one for US lithium stocks. Learn about the top US lithium stocks with year-to-date gains.

Lithium companies in the US are seeing strong performances and plenty of news in 2023.

Lithium and the larger US battery metals sector received a boost from the American government last October as President Joe Biden announced US$2.8 billion in grants to companies working to create a domestic battery supply chain in the country.

While lithium companies are still seeing gains, lithium prices have fallen since the beginning of 2023, with a variety of headwinds affecting the battery metal. Lithium carbonate prices have been hit the hardest, with hydroxide prices slumping less and spodume prices actually increasing. The Investing News Network spoke with experts at the end of Q1 to get their thoughts on the sector.

“I do admit that prices came down faster and further than we thought likely … we were not expecting demand to retreat as much as it has, which was brought on by the severe COVID-19 hit China suffered towards the end of 2022,” Fastmarkets' William Adams said. “The drop in price prompted destocking, which in turn has made apparent demand look worse than actual demand.”

At the end of April, carbonate prices saw a rebound after Chile nationalized its lithium industry.

Here the Investing News Network takes a look at the top lithium stocks with year-to-date gains listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ. The list below was generated using TradingView’s stock screener on May 2, 2023, and includes companies that had market caps above US$50 million at that time. Read on to learn more about their activities.

1. Atlas Lithium (NASDAQ:ATLX)

Year-to-date gain: 535.89 percent; market cap: US$279.36 million; current share price: US$41.46

Atlas Lithium is exploring for strategic minerals in Brazil. In addition to its hard-rock lithium projects — Minas Gerais and Northeastern Brazil — it is also looking for nickel, rare earths, titanium and graphite at its other properties. The company is focused on advancing and developing the Neves project area within its Minas Gerais asset, and plans to build a lithium processing plant where it will be able to produce up to 150,000 metric tons (MT) of lithium concentrate per year.

In January, Atlas Lithium signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsui (OTC Pink:MITSY,TSE:8031) under which Atlas will receive US$65 million in funding in tranches to advance its concentrate plant; for its part, Mitsui will obtain the rights to purchase 100 percent of the plant’s output.

After mostly staying below the US$10 mark early in the year, the company’s share price began climbing on February 21, eventually spiking all the way up to US$19.85 on February 23 and staying around those levels in the following weeks.

Early April saw Atlas report its best drill hole to date: 4.4 percent lithium oxide at Minas Gerais’ Anitta pegmatite target within Neves. Anitta was discovered in February and is now the focus of drilling to delineate a resource in and around the target.

Atlas’ share price began climbing in mid-April, during which time the company shared details from a metallurgical report on lithium recoveries from Neves ore. Heavy liquid separation performed on the ore achieved a “very high grade of 7.22 percent,” according to the report. Dense media separation resulted in commercial-grade lithium concentrate grading 6.04 percent lithium with a recovery of 70 percent.

The company’s share price peaked on May 2 at US$41.46, the day it announced a royalty transaction with Lithium Royalty (TSX:LIRC,OTC Pink:LITRF). Atlas will receive an immediate US$20 million for a 3 percent gross overriding revenue royalty; the deal is currently Brazil’s largest lithium royalty agreement, per the release.

2. Piedmont Lithium (NASDAQ:PLL)

Year-to-date gain: 23.19 percent; market cap: US$1.01 billion; current share price: US$52.75

Based in the US state of North Carolina, Piedmont Lithium is focused on producing lithium hydroxide to provide companies with a source outside of China. To do so, Piedmont is advancing its fully integrated Carolina lithium project in North Carolina and is planning the largest US lithium hydroxide plant, which will be in Tennessee. The company received a US$141.7 million grant for the plant from the US government last year.

Piedmont has interests outside the US as well. In Quebec, Canada, Piedmont has a 25 percent interest in the Sayona Quebec joint venture with Sayona Mining (ASX:SYA,OTCQB:SYAXF). The two companies successfully restarted spodumene production at Sayona Quebec’s North American Lithium (NAL) project in March. In Ghana, Piedmont has an earn-in agreement for up to a 50 percent interest in Atlantic Lithium’s (ASX:A11,LSE:ALL,OTC Pink:ALLIF) lithium portfolio, including its flagship Ewoyaa project, which Piedmont plans to use to partially feed its Tennessee plant.

In mid-February, Piedmont announced that LG Chem (KRX:051910) was investing US$75 million in Piedmont, and that the battery maker had signed a four year offtake agreement for a total of 200,000 MT of spodumene from the NAL project; it will be used to create cathode materials that comply with the US Inflation Reduction Act. Piedmont's share price hit a year-to-date peak of US$73.46 on the news before moving back down in the following weeks.

In early March, Piedmont’s share price was hurt by a short seller report written by Blue Orca. Piedmont invested in Atlantic Lithium in 2021, and Blue Orca claims that some of that company's licenses were obtained by “making secret payments … (to the) family of a high-level Ghana politician." Blue Orca, which has a short interest in Piedmont, said this makes the Ghana government unlikely to approve Atlantic’s mining licenses for Ewoyaa, which would impact plans for the Tennessee plant.

Atlantic firmly denied the allegations and said that the targeted licenses aren’t part of its mining license application for Ewoyaa. On top of this, Piedmont stated that even without supply from Ewoyaa, it will be able to secure supply elsewhere from companies looking to participate in the US supply chain.

Piedmont’s share price moved back up on the March 30 news that Piedmont and Sayona successfully restarted spodumene production at the NAL project. According to the release, NAL is “the only major source of new spodumene production expected in North America in the next two years.” The operation is expected to produce 226,000 MT annually and is set to begin commercial shipments in Q3.

In April, the company filed its feasibility study for the Tennessee plant, which will produce 30,000 MT of lithium hydroxide annually. Construction of the plant is expected to begin in 2024. Estimated study economics show an after-tax net present value of US$2.5 billion at an 8 percent discount and an after-tax internal rate of return of 32 percent.

3. Sigma Lithium (NASDAQ:SGML)

Year-to-date gain: 18.06 percent; market cap: US$3.57 billion; current share price: US$34.00

In Minas Gerais, Brazil, Sigma Lithium is now a lithium miner, as its Grota do Cirilo hard-rock lithium project began Phase 1 production on April 17. Sigma anticipates annual production of 270,000 MT for Phase 1 and 766,000 MT from the second and third phases if they proceed. As part of Phase 1, the company commissioned a greentech dense media separation production plant, which it says will make its operations vertically integrated.

The company refers to its battery-grade sustainable lithium concentrate product as green lithium, because the greentech plant “features 100% dry-stacked tailings, 100% clean energy, 100% recycled water and zero hazardous chemicals.”

Sigma’s share price jumped nearly US$5 in mid-February, when Bloomberg shared that Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) was considering a takeover of Sigma, citing “people with knowledge of the matter.” However, during Tesla’s Investor Day event on March 1, CEO Elon Musk put a damper on that rumor when he said his company is more interested in lithium refining than mining.

On April 10, Sigma Lithium announced that COPAM, the Minas Gerais state environmental regulator, had awarded Sigma its environmental operating license for Grota do Cirilo. The license allows the company to sell all of its lithium from current and future operations. The news drove the company’s share price to a year-to-date high of C$39.90 on April 14.

As mentioned, Sigma achieved first production at 75 percent nameplate throughput capacity on April 17. The company expects its first shipment of green lithium to take place in May and said it will come in at 15,000 MT; on April 27, it began the process of moving its lithium to port. The plant should reach full production in July of this year.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Lauren Kelly, currently hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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