Australia lithium miner Altura says it has signed offtake deal with China's Ganfeng

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian lithium producer Altura Mining on Friday said it had signed a deal to supply Chinese battery giant Ganfeng Lithium with concentrate from its Pilgangoora mine in Western Australia.

Battery makers such as Ganfeng and Tesla have been scouring the globe for new sources of lithium to help meet an anticipated boom in demand for batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), with miners in top exporter Australia reaping the benefits.

The deal will see Altura supply Ganfeng with 8,000 tons of 6-percent spodumene concentrate this year and a minimum of 70,000 tons per year from 2019 to 2021 in return for an $11 million payment next year.

Ganfeng was not immediately available for comment.

The deal comes amid falling prices for the raw material and after one of Altura’s other two customers, Shaanxi J&R Optimum Energy Co. Ltd (JRO), was forced into restructuring mid-year.

Shaanxi, a battery maker that was badly hit by China’s change to subsidies for electric vehicles in June, has agreed to halve its minimum contracted supply to 50,000 tons a year from 2019, Altura said.

Altura’s other customer is a Chinese chemicals firm called Lionergy.

“The prepayment will alleviate near term balance sheet concerns (for the miner),” broker Canaccord said in a note. The broker has a “hold” on the firm.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford