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Gina Rinehart-Backed Lithium Hopeful Surges After Pilot Batch

Article by Paul-Alain Hunt courtesy of Bloomberg.

(Bloomberg) — Australia-listed lithium developer Vulcan Energy Resources Ltd. is up nearly 30% this week after announcing its first viable output using direct-extraction technology, an emerging technique for producing the battery material.
The firm’s pilot plant in Landau, Germany, delivered a batch of lithium chloride in line with the quality it eventually plans to make commercially, Vulcan said in a statement on Thursday. The firm backed by Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart has agreements to supply European carmakers including Stellantis, Renault SA, and Volkswagen AG.
The firm’s shares jumped about 13% on Wednesday and then surged as much as 19% more on Thursday.
Direct lithium extraction, or DLE, is seen as a promising production technique because it radically reduces the time needed to convert lithium brine into a form suitable for battery manufacturing. But it has faced widespread skepticism, and is still relatively untested at commercial scale.
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“We see this as a major step forward for the company, a validation of Vulcan’s extensive work to date and of our view that DLE has a role to play in the lithium supply chain,” analysts from Cannacord Genuity Ltd. said in an emailed note.
Vulcan is planning to start market-ready production in 2026, Executive Chairman Francis Wedin said in an email interview. The company is still seeking to secure funding for that first phase, which will make 24,000 tons of lithium hydroxide annually — enough to supply batteries for half a million electric vehicles. 
“Construction will take just over two years, and the clock starts ticking once financing is complete,” Wedin said. The company is in talks with potential strategic investors, including oil and gas and automotive companies, to buy equity, Vulcan said..
Vulcan said the pilot production in Germany was the first lithium chloride sourced and produced within Europe. The project will use geothermal energy to power its plant, reducing carbon emissions, it said.