This episode is a combination of a college reunion and adult summer camp. Recorded in Jujuy, Argentina, during the Panorama Minero Lithium South America event with returning guest Jon Evans the CEO of Lithium Americas. It was a great opportunity for both Jon and Joe to catch up with many of their ex-FMC Lithium (Argentina) colleagues who also attended the event. Joe was in the midst of a two week, two conference trip to South America that his wife, Connie, likes to call “adult summer camp.” Using her camper skills, Emily assembled a makeshift studio in her room. The well attended conference created a bit of a housing shortage and Emily generously shared her room with former podcast guest Ines Ulla who makes a cameo appearance.
Once the logistics were out of the way, Jon gave Joe and Emily an update on the progress at Minera Exar, the LAC – Ganfeng JV, that is rapidly advancing the Cauchari brine project in Jujuy. Listeners to episode 45 will also get an update of LAC’s wholly owned Thacker Pass clay (aka “soft rock”) project in Nevada.
Jon speaks about the changing attitude in the United States with respect to critical raw materials for the battery industry which includes lithium deposits. The group discusses resource nationalism in the light of the developing US – China trade war. They also shed some light on why the US is behind in the minerals space despite being rich in natural resources. The negative sentiment toward China has not impacted LAC’s relationship with partner Ganfeng but it has created a need to take of broader view or partnerships when considering how to develop Thacker Pass.
Jon discusses LAC’s engineering heavy, get it done, no BS approach to project development in both Argentina and the US including a discussion of how mining licenses work in the US. Joe and Emily then move on to corporate culture and ask what lessons from his time at FMC Lithium will help Jon run LAC? Jon makes it clear that developing greenfield lithium projects isn’t easy and that unexpected issues “always” happen. Jon gives his vision of where he sees LAC a few years down the road and wonders aloud about the current negativity on pricing when today’s price is more than double what it was when he left FMC Lithium just a few years ago. As is the custom, the podcast closes with rapid questions. Keep your ears open, Joe and Emily have a few new questions for their guest.