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Lithium, copper, cobalt prices trend down

Lithium is selling for about $30,000 per metric ton, less than half of what it sold for in mid-2022. | Andrii Yalanskyi/Shutterstock

As demand for electric vehicles declines, prices for lithium, cobalt and copper are sliding down, potentially putting lithium-ion battery recyclers in a tight spot. 

After hovering around the $70,000 per metric ton mark from mid-2022 through the end of that year, lithium prices started to dive in early 2023. Now, they’re around $30,000 per metric ton. 

The Wall Street Journal reported the decline can be attributed to volatile markets and waning demand for electric vehicles, particularly in China.

Eric Norris, president of lithium at chemical processing company Albemarle, told The Wall Street Journal that he foresees a “bumpy couple of months,” but that the company still plans to move ahead on building a $1.3 billion lithium processing and recycling facility in South Carolina because he thinks prices will rebound. 

Last week, mining company Jervois Global announced it was suspending construction of its Idaho cobalt project because of low prices, the article added.

Since January, cobalt prices have fallen from around $51,500 per ton to around $34,500 per ton, with the decline at its sharpest in February, according to the London Metal Exchange. 

The Wall Street Journal warned that because there’s already a projected shortage of metals needed for batteries, a price drop now could cause investments to slow down, further restricting supply chain capacity. 

In other news about metals pricing relevant to e-scrap, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ Weekly Market Report recently noted that COMEX May copper futures were down 2.3% on the morning of April 5, to around $3.95 per pound . 

That price drop comes after copper hit a high point of over $4.25 per pound in late January. At the start of 2023, the copper price was around $3.80 per pound.

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