Lithium rose to a new all-time high in November 2022, but prices have faced ups and downs in 2023. While the battery metal hit a stumbling block early in the year, April and May saw prices bounce back and later stabilize.
He also noted that the gap between lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices shrunk significantly in Q2. ‘This is a result of faster demand recovery for carbonate from producers of lithium-iron-phosphate cathode chemistries, which are favored in China,’ Megginson said.
Other trends affecting the lithium space right now include the US Inflation Reduction Act, sustainability in the sector and the necessity of increased financing and permitting to bring new supply online to meet long-term demand.
Even with easing prices, many lithium stocks are up year-to-date. Below is a look at the top lithium stocks with year-to-date gains. The list below was generated using TradingView’s stock screener on July 13, 2023, for Canadian companies, July 17, 2023, for US companies and July 19, 2023, for Australian companies. It includes companies listed on the NYSE, NASDAQ, TSX, TSXV and ASX; all top lithium stocks had market caps above $50 million in their respective currencies when data was gathered.
Top US lithium stocks
1. Atlas Lithium (NASDAQ:ATLX)
Year-to-date gain: 228.07 percent; market cap: C$213.40 million; current share price: C$21.39
Atlas Lithium is a strategic minerals company with a portfolio of battery metals projects in Brazil. The company is currently focused on advancing and developing the Neves project area within its wholly owned Minas Gerais hard-rock lithium project. In February, Atlas discovered the Anitta pegmatite target at Neves, which is now the focus of drilling to delineate a resource in and around the target.
In April, the company shared that a drill hole at Anitta intersected high-grade lithium, including 4.4 percent lithium oxide; this news sent Atlas’ share price on an upward climb that month. On April 24, Atlas revealed details from a metallurgical report on lithium recoveries from Neves ore. According to the report, heavy liquid separation performed on the ore achieved a “very high grade of 7.22 percent,” and dense media separation resulted in commercial-grade lithium concentrate grading 6.04 percent lithium with a recovery of 70 percent.
News from Atlas’ Neves project drove the company’s share price upward in early Q2. Atlas’ share price peaked on May 2 at US$41.46, the day the company 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. Although Atlas’ share price fell afterwards, it has since held above US$20.
At the end of June, Atlas announced that Minas Gerais has granted Neves priority review status for its environmental permitting and licensing, which the company believes “could meaningfully expedite the permitting and licensing of its Project.” Most recently, it intersected a new high mark for lithium mineralization, with an interval between 9.2 and 10.3 meters from the surface grading 5.23 percent in an area the company is dubbing Anitta 2.
In addition to developing its project, Atlas plans to build a lithium processing plant that can produce up to 300,000 metric tons (MT) of lithium concentrate per year. To help advance it, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsui (OTC Pink:MITSY,TSE:8031) for US$65 million of funding in tranches back in January; in return, Mitsui will obtain the rights to purchase 100 percent of the plant’s output. In June, Atlas purchased land for the plant and engaged consultants for its planning and design.
2. Livent (NYSE:LTHM)
Year-to-date gain: 41.99 percent; market cap: C$5.14 billion; current share price: C$28.61
Livent is a global lithium producer with manufacturing facilities in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. It creates lithium products that serve diverse markets, such as energy storage and battery systems, polymers, aerospace and pharmaceuticals. The company also owns 50 percent of Nemaska Lithium, which is advancing its Whabouchi mine and its Bécancour lithium hydroxide facility in James Bay, Quebec.
Following a strong start to the year and a muted March and April, Livent’s share price begin climbing again in May, which brought the release of significant news for the company. On May 2, Livent shared its results for the first quarter, reporting record revenue of US$253.5 million, a 16 percent increase quarter-on-quarter and a 77 percent rise year-on-year.
A blockbuster news item came on May 10, when Livent and Allkem (ASX:AKE,OTC Pink:OROCF) announced a US$10.6 billion mega merger between the two lithium giants. The merger of equals is expected to close by the end of the year, with Allkem shareholders owning approximately 56 percent of the resultant entity and Livent ones owning the remainder.
Later that month, Nemaska signed an 11 year lithium hydroxide agreement with Ford (NYSE:F) to supply 13,000 MT of lithium hydroxide annually once Bécancour is online. Before that time, Nemaska will supply the auto company with spodumene concentrate from Whabouchi
Livent’s share price continued to climb during July, ultimately hitting a new peak for the year at US$28.87 on July 18.
3. Sigma Lithium (NASDAQ:SGML)
Year-to-date gain: 40.76 percent; market cap: C$4.1 billion; current share price: C$40.54
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, which 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, and it is expected to reach full production in July. On April 27, the company began the process of moving its lithium to port.
Sigma announced a 300,000 MT green tailings offtake agreement and a 15,000 MT green lithium sale on May 3, both of which were with Yahua International Investment and Development, a top lithium chemical refining company. It received the first payment for its tailings later that month.
Top Canadian lithium stocks
1. Solis Minerals (TSXV:SLMN)
Year-to-date gain: 962.5 percent; market cap: C$53.21 million; current share price: C$0.85
Solis Minerals is an exploration company focused on battery metals properties in South America. It has a portfolio that includes the Borborema lithium project in Northeast Brazil and copper projects covering a combined 32,400 hectares in Southwest Peru.
On May 29, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, which oversees trading on Canadian exchanges, suspended trading for Solis pending upcoming news. The company’s closing share price before that was C$0.11. Two days later, Solis Minerals entered into a binding option agreement to acquire a 100 percent interest in the Jaguar hard-rock lithium project in Northeast Brazil, which has confirmed spodumene grades of up to 4.95 percent in oxidized pegmatite.
However, trading didn’t open until June 8, when Solis announced it had received commitments totaling AU$8.16 million for a placement that will be used to, among other things, fund drilling at both its lithium projects and complete the fees for the Jaguar acquisition. Following that announcement, trading resumed and the company’s share price shot up to C$0.65. The first tranche of the placement, totaling AU$3,050,000, was closed on June 19.
Solis began its maiden drilling program at Jaguar on June 22. According to the announcement, it will take place over about 90 days and will “test the strike extent, thickness, orientation and the down dip extent of the pegmatite body.” Solis’ share price has continued to perform strongly since it began trading again last month, and climbed to a year-to-date high of C$1.04 on July 4.
2. Q2 Metals (TSXV:QTWO)
Year-to-date gain: 218.93 percent; market cap: C$63.98 million; current share price: C$0.79
Q2 Metals is an exploration company focused on advancing its Mia lithium property in James Bay, Quebec. It also has the Stellar lithium property north of Mia, which it acquired in March, as well as the Big Hill and Titan gold projects in Queensland, Australia.
Q2’s share price began climbing early in the year after the January 23 appointment of Neil McCallum as a director and the company’s vice president of exploration. In 2016, McCallum identified and staked Patriot Battery Metals’ (TSXV:PMET,OTCQX:PMETF) Corvette lithium property, which is also in the James Bay region. Two days later, the company commenced a C$10 million private placement financing. The company’s share price climbed during the following weeks to hit a Q1 high of C$1.05 on February 6.
Q2 commenced its 2023 exploration at the Mia project in early April, and the company completed Phase 1 — induced polarity and resistivity surveying — on April 26. On May 31, Q2 began Phase 2, which will consist of ground mapping and sampling; the company’s share price hit a year-to-date peak of C$1.07 that day.
While the company had to shut down work in early June due to spreading wildfires in Quebec, on June 29 it shared an update with results from completed exploration work. Once work can begin again, Q2 intends to begin drilling at the Mia zone immediately alongside other Phase 2 activities.
3. Patriot Battery Metals (TSXV:PMET)
Year-to-date gain: 137.41 percent; market cap: C$1.42 billion; current share price: C$15.74
Patriot Battery Metals is an exploration and development company that is working on advancing its Corvette lithium property, which hosts the CV5 lithium pegmatite target, in Quebec’s James Bay region.
The company’s winter 2023 drill program, which concluded on April 17, focused on extending the CV5 pegmatite at Corvette. After climbing through January following high-grade assays from 2022 exploration, Patriot hit a Q1 high of C$17.17 on February 6 when it announced that holes from its 2023 drill campaign extended the CV5 pegmatite by at least 400 meters to 2.6 kilometers. As of May 1, a series of further results from the campaign had extended it to at least 3.7 kilometers.
In late May, Patriot began its summer/fall exploration work, which will include drilling and surface exploration, and is aimed at further delineating the CV5 and C13 pegmatites and testing other pegmatite clusters. However, like Q2 Metals, Patriot had to cease exploration in early June due to the wildfires in Quebec, and exploration remained on hold until June 14. The company’s share price hit a year-to-date high of C$17.53 on June 16 after climbing throughout the Q2 period.
On July 4, Patriot shared that heavy liquid separation testing on core samples from CV13 indicate that a dense media separation process can be used for the pegmatite body. The testing returned spodumene concentrate grades of 6 percent and up with lithium recoveries over 70 percent. The company saw similar results for its CV5 pegmatite in February, and it believes this means material from both can be jointly processed.
Patriot’s final assays from the winter exploration program were released on July 10, and the company said it plans to release an initial resource estimate for CV5 that will include all drill holes from the winter program “in a few weeks.”
Top Australian lithium stocks
1. Solis Minerals (ASX:SLM)
Year-to-date gain: 700 percent; market cap: AU$30.52 million; current share price: AU$0.60
For information about Solis Minerals and what has driven its share price, see its entry in the top Canadian lithium companies section above.
2. Latin Resources (ASX:LRS)
Year-to-date gain: 314.14 percent; market cap: AU$955.47 million; current share price: AU$0.41
Latin Resources (ASX:LRS) is focused on exploring its lithium projects in South America: the Salinas pegmatite project in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s Aracuai lithium province and the Catamarca pegmatite project in Catamarca, Argentina.
The company has been focused on exploring Salinas in 2023, including a 65,000 meter diamond drill program at the project’s Colina and Colina West deposits. It expanded the project by over 350 percent in February when it acquired a package of tenements covering 29,940 hectares in the region.
At the end of March, Latin Resources signed a memorandum of understanding with two Minas Gerais state government entities that will help the company as it develops Salinas and support building a lithium battery sector in the state. The government has designated Salinas a priority project.
Latin Resources’ share price saw upward momentum throughout Q2, which it opened at AU$0.12. On April 19, the company said it had received commitments from multiple entities, including North American battery metals funds, for a AU$37.1 million placement.
It announced the conclusion of its resource definition drilling program at Colina on May 18. The drilling discovered a “significant lithium swarm” that extended the size of the deposit to more than 2 kilometers long by 1 kilometer wide. The company said it would continue drilling through the end of the year, including step-out drilling to Colina’s southwest and large-diameter drilling for metallurgical testing.
Latin Resources holds a 13.13 percent stake in Solis Minerals — making it the company’s largest shareholder — and it committed to raising its interest to 17.79 percent as part of Solis’ AU$8.16 million placement on June 8. The increase is pending shareholder approval.
While Latin Resources’ share price saw significant gains in the first half of 2023, the June 20 release of the Colina deposit’s updated resource estimate sent it flying upward from AU$0.20 to AU$0.28 over the following days.
According to the report, the deposit is host to measured, indicated and inferred resources totaling 45.19 million MT grading 1.32 percent, which results in 597,400 MT of contained lithium oxide or 1.48 million MT of lithium carbonate equivalent. This is a 241 percent increase over its previous resource estimate.
On June 28, Latin Resources announced that further drilling at the Salinas project intersected spodumene-rich pegmatites at two separate locations. According to the company, these discoveries “confirm the presence of a ‘district scale’ lithium corridor within Latin’s tenements” that extends up to 26 kilometers southwest of the Colina deposit.
Latin Resources’ share price continued upward after this news, ending June at AU$0.32 and climbing to a year-to-date high of AU$0.41 as of July 20.
3. Leo Lithium (AU:LLL)
Year-to-date gain: 135.05 percent; market cap: AU$1.37 billion; current share price: AU$1.14
Leo Lithium is focused on bringing its Goulamina lithium project in Mali to production. Lithium spodumene concentrate output is targeted for the first half of 2024, with Stage 1 production anticipated to be 506,000 MT per year.
Leo Lithium’s share price began climbing upward from AU$0.52 following the release of the company’s quarterly report on April 28, which offered updates on its progress at Goulamina. On May 24, Leo released results from drilling at the project, saying it had intersected “thick, high-grade mineralisation,” including 92 meters at 2.01 percent lithium oxide.
The company’s share price jumped to AU$0.93 following the May 29 news that it was entering a partnership with Ganfeng Lithium (OTC Pink:GNENF,SZSE:002460,HKEX:1772), including a AU$106.1 million strategic placement that fully funds Leo’s costs for Stage 1 development costs.
As part of the partnership, the two companies will study the possibility of increasing the planned Stage 2 production capacity at Goulamina to reach a total output of 1 million MT per year. They will also research co-investing in a conversion facility in Europe that could be used to produce lithium hydroxide.
In mid-June, Leo released an updated resource estimate for Goulamina. The project now hosts 211 million MT grading 1.37 percent lithium oxide, which Leo said makes it the fifth largest spodumene deposit globally. On June 30, the company announced it had produced the first direct-shipped ore from the project as part of the ramp-up process; it is targeting 185,000 MT worth of direct-shipped ore exports prior to spodumene production.
Leo Lithium’s share price continued climbing to hit a year-to-date high of AU$1.24 on July 11. The company halted trading a week later on July 18 pending the release of an announcement; two days later, it suspended its shares from quotation with the clarification that the announcement is “regarding correspondence from the government of Mali.” At the time of this writing, no further update had been made.
FAQs for investing in lithium
How much lithium is on Earth?
While we don’t know how much total lithium is on Earth, the US Geological Survey estimates that global reserves stand at 22 billion MT. Of that, 9.2 billion MT are located in Chile, and 5.7 billion MT are in Australia.
Where is lithium mined?
Lithium is mined throughout the world, but the two countries that produce the most are Australia and Chile. Australia’s lithium comes from primarily hard-rock deposits, while Chile’s comes from lithium brines. Chile is part of the Lithium Triangle alongside Argentina and Bolivia, although those two countries have a lower annual output.
Rounding out the top five lithium-producing countries behind Australia and Chile are China, Argentina and Brazil.
What is lithium used for?
Lithium has a wide variety of applications. While the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, smartphones and other tech have been making waves, it is also used in pharmaceuticals, ceramics, grease, lubricants and heat-resistant glass. Still, it is largely the electric vehicle industry that is boosting demand.
Is lithium a good investment?
The lithium price has seen huge success over the past year, and many stocks are up alongside that. It’s up to investors to decide if it’s time to get in on the market, or if they’ll try to wait for a dip.
A wide variety of analysts are bullish on the market as electric vehicles continue to prosper, and lithium demand from that segment alone is expected to continue to rise. These experts believe the lithium story’s strength will continue over the next decades as producers struggle to meet rapidly growing demand.
How to invest in lithium?
Unlike many commodities, investors cannot physically hold lithium due to its dangerous properties. However, those looking to get into the lithium market have many options when it comes to how to invest in lithium.
Lithium stocks like those mentioned above could be a good option for investors interested in the space. If you’re looking to diversify instead of focusing on one stock, there is the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (NYSE:LIT), an exchange-traded fund (ETF) focused on the metal. Experienced investors can also look at lithium futures.
How to buy lithium stocks?
Lithium stocks can be found globally on various exchanges. Through the use of a broker or an investing service such as an app, investors can purchase individual stocks and ETFs that match their investing outlook.
Before buying a lithium stock, potential investors should take time to research the companies they’re considering; they should also decide how many shares will be purchased, and what price they are willing to pay. With many options on the market, it’s critical to complete due diligence before making any investment decisions.
It’s also important for investors to keep their goals in mind when choosing their investing method. There are many factors to consider when choosing a broker, as well as when looking at investing apps — a few of these include the broker or app’s reputation, their fee structure and investment style.
Securities Disclosure: I, Lauren Kelly, currently hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.