ExxonMobil and ECAs make moves on lithium

(Global Trade Review, London, 15 November 2023) Oil supermajor ExxonMobil has unveiled plans to become a “leading producer” of lithium ahead of an expected leap in demand for battery metals – but for pure commodity traders, big moves remain a more distant prospect. Export credit agencies (ECAs) are also upping involvement in lithium production. In August, ECAs from Australia, South Korea and the US revealed they were considering providing a US$195mn package of support for a lithium mine in the Australian outback, which is expected to produce 15,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent per year. A new report from Both ENDs and FARN explores the case of lithium mining in Argentina and provides recommendations for making a just transition to sustainable energy systems. It explores the extraction of these minerals which requires investments, and how export credit agencies (ECAs) are increasingly looking for ways to support businesses that do what they call "green projects" abroad, projects which are promoted under a market logic, but with rhetoric linked to the climate crisis and energy transition. This raises the question: should they? And, moreover, is mining for critical minerals a green investment? And are export credit agencies the right agent to help promote a just energy transition?