Saturday, December 10

Albemarle to stay in Europe if lithium declared hazardous by EU, CEO says

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Albemarle Corp, the world’s largest lithium producer, does not plan to leave Europe if the battery metal is declared a hazardous material by the European Union, though such a move would likely raise the company’s costs, its chief executive told Reuters on Wednesday.

The European Commission is weighing a proposal by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) that would classify lithium carbonate, chloride and hydroxide as dangerous for human health. Such a designation would likely require costly new packaging and storage to transport the metal, which is used make electric vehicle batteries.

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A decision could come as soon as this week. Albemarle has been lobbying against the proposed rules, but believes that they’re likely to be approved, Kent Masters, Albemarle’s CEO, said in an interview.

“I think it’s going to add a little bureaucracy,” he said. “It changes the way you’d have to handle the material.”

Given Europe’s ambitious goals for electrification, though, it is unlikely the rules would slow down the continent’s EV adoption, he said.

Albemarle had warned earlier this year that the regulations might force it to close a processing plant in Germany. But Masters said on Wednesday that while the new rules would likely boost costs, demand on the continent would continue to fuel its business there. Masters added it’s too soon to say how much Albemarle’s costs could rise due to the regulations.

Europe produces very little lithium and must import the metal to processing facilities such as Albemarle’s.

“I don’t think it’s going to impact the growth of EVs” in Europe, Masters said. “Both the EU and the automakers really want to localize the supply chain.” (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Sandra Maler)