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Lithium Americas CEO on his outlook for U.S. lithium production

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Jon Evans, CEO of Lithium Americas, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss what's next for U.S. lithium production.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Let's switch gears here a little bit and talk about demand for lithium, also talk about lithium mining, because lithium is so important. It is in batteries when it comes to electric vehicles. It's also included in iPhones, and the list goes on. So we want to talk about this with the CEO of Lithium Americas. We have Jon Evans joining the show. And John, it's great to have you on the program here today.

Let's just take a step back and talk big picture. The global demand for lithium. Because when you take a look at what lithium is in like, batteries for electric vehicles, like iPhones, and the list goes on and on and on, it's a very, very important component. What does the global demand picture look like for lithium over the next five to 10 years?

JON EVANS: It's poised to grow probably by orders of magnitude. If you look at where we are today versus where we're going to be in 2025 and in 2030, industry's poised to grow by about 7,000%. So that's almost incomprehensible to think about that number. But the industry was quite small before, and really has started to rapidly accelerate and grow as major automotive manufacturers have really made investment commitments to the industry itself. I think that's also been bolstered by positive policy in Europe and in Asia, and now in the United States. So we're really on the precipice of a really exciting growth for the lithium industry in general.

ADAM SHAPIRO: The upside potential seems really, investors might want to pay attention to this especially. Your stock's up 5% today, but you're off of the 52-week high. And the reason I bring that up, is it seems like you got pulled down when a competitor reported earnings and couldn't give guidance as to where all of this was heading. So I wanted to ask you, does the world, we used to talk about peak oil, is there going to be peak lithium? Are the mines, do we know the capacity for the mines to produce as the world needs, as you said, three times more by 2025?

JON EVANS: So there's plenty of lithium available. It's finding economic deposits, and then developing them is really the challenge. It takes anywhere from three years for a Brownfield deposit to up to 10 years if it's a Greenfield deposit. So really, development is key. And I know the major lithium producer you're talking about. I think the industry has come off a little bit its high in January. The whole theme has, electric vehicles and clean energy.

But if you look at year over year, it's really been quite an impressive amount of growth I think in the stock prices, not only in ours, but also in competing companies. There is plenty of supply, but we really need to get moving, especially in the United States and other regions of the world, in order to meet the demand, because we're already behind.

SEANA SMITH: And talk about already being behind, the fact that we are so reliant on foreign supply of lithium at this point. I guess, to what extent is this threaten the next phase of innovation here in the US?

JON EVANS: It's kind of three-fold when you look at really what lithium is addressing. Number one is climate change. So you really can't address climate change without batteries. So vehicles being the biggest contributor to the carbon balance deficit that we have globally. I think second, competitiveness for the US, and actually even Europe. When you look at the electric vehicle has really taken off in Asia first, although Tesla has been an early mover and should be really commended, we really need to start to get things moving quickly here.

And the third leg of this is really green jobs. And that there is a real opportunity here as we move to decarbonize and as a vehicle fleet compositions change, for really good paying jobs to be developed out of all this. If you look at our proposed and project that we're developing in Nevada, we're not a mining company. We're actually a chemical company. The mining's actually going to be done by a coal company, who's actually pivoting to the lithium space. So a real world example of sustainable green jobs that can come out of all this.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's talk about it. It's the Thacker Pass Project. And what will this mean when does it's up and running, or I don't know if the United States could ever be self-sufficient with lithium, but what does that mean for our US security and production of lithium?

JON EVANS: Well, it certainly can help make a dent, and we won't be the only one. There'll be additional operations that will be needed. But if you look at the demand today, if you look at the amount of electric vehicles, battery density, it's about 30,000 tons of demand today this year. It'll go to over 100,000 tons in 2025, and then it'll be 350,000 tons just for the United States by 2030.

If you look at the industry today, if you look at all the capacity in the world that it was on right now, that's about 600,000 tons for an industry, if I look at the total global demand by 2030, it's nearly two million tons. So there's a bit of a race, and there's especially a look now to develop and to localize supply chains. I certainly don't advocate the United States is going to be completely independent, but I think it's important for the US to have domestic supplies of lithium not only to supply the automotive manufacturers, but also to spur growth of the other areas of the supply chain around cathodes, anodes, and other aspects of batteries in general.

SEANA SMITH: Jon Evans, the CEO of Lithium Americas, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.