Canada-based global lithium producer Sigma Lithium will invest 492.4m reais ($99.4m) in a previously announced plant in Brazil. The company said the project will be funded by the BNDES, from which it has received an LOI for a project finance credit line.

Sigma Lithium did not state how much credit BNDES was planning to extend.

Ana Cabral-Gardner, CEO and co-chairman of Sigma Lithium, said: “We are honoured and delighted with the letter of intention received today from BNDES. Development Bank Debt awarded by Brazil has the potential to significantly improve our capital structure due to typical longer duration, significantly lower interest rates and grace periods.

“Having BNDES as a creditor represents the support of the Government of Brazil to Sigma Lithium’s industrial expansion plans at Vale do Jequitinhonha,” Cabral-Gardner added.

Sigma Lithium is a mineral processing and development company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. At the end of January, its subsidiary Sigma Brazil significantly increased its mineral resource estimate to 109 million tonnes at its Grota do Cirilo operation in Vale do Jequitinhonha. Grota do Cirilo is one of the world’s largest and highest-grade rock lithium deposits.

The fighting over lithium-based reserves is taking centre stage in the context of growing demand for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which are critical in powering electric vehicles (EVs). According to a GlobalData report, the Li-ion battery market is expected to reach $400bn by 2035, up from $88.6bn in 2022.

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This marks a 12.5% compound annual growth rate over the next 11 years. The price at which lithium will be traded, alongside growing demand for consumer electronics and energy storage, will drive much of the lithium industry’s expansion.

However, the EV industry, consisting of passenger cars and commercial vehicles, will be at the forefront of Li-ion battery demand. Management consultancy McKinsey believes mobility applications will account for at least 90% of lithium demand by 2030. On a separate note, GlobalData predicts the automotive industry will add around 17.3 million EV units by 2025, or 18.4% of the total small-car production.

This makes Cabral-Gardner optimistic about lithium demand in the future.

“Despite the recent deterioration in the outlook for lithium demand in the short term, Sigma Lithium believes that with the appropriate capital structure enabled by this development bank financing, it has a unique opportunity to solidify its global industrial competitive leadership in producing low-cost and sustainable pre-chemical lithium concentrate,” Cabral-Gardner explained. “This BNDES support also allows Sigma to further amplify its transformational impact in the Vale do Jequitinhonha.”