On a soggy morning in Santiago Chile, Joe and Emily sit down with Daniel Jimenez, a lithium industry veteran since 1999 to discuss his life spent in lithium. Joe recalls how difficult SQM made his life in sales by bringing the lithium price down. The three get into the context of the high-profile feud between Corfo and lithium companies regarding moving up the value chain in Chile, and the lost opportunity for the country as a result of not solving the problem quickly. Joe and Danile discuss the potential disconnect between lithium production volume permitted on the Salar de Atacama vs. what is technically feasible, but concur that hydroxide and carbonate prices will converge. Nevertheless, Daniel believes large producers like SQM will keep a foot in both the carbonate and hydroxide worlds to hedge their business and provide battery use for off-spec carbonate.
When talking about the lithium and EV markets, Daniel shares his view that demand is linked to when price parity for electric vehicles will be reached, but that while demand could turn quickly, supply forecasts are too optimistic due to investment delays and challenges scaling up. The trio get into the qualification process and time, to which Daniel aptly comments that qualification time is proportional to the availability of lithium, and buyers show flexibility in times of high demand.
Daniel and Joe share stories and highlights of the cultural differences between the big battery countries, and what Daniel has observed in his career as a movement towards a more open and warm reception of different cultures and people worldwide.
As usual, Emily and Joe close out the episode with some rapid fire questions.