(Bloomberg) -- Pilbara Minerals Ltd., Australia’s biggest pure-play lithium producer, said buyer interest in its material had picked up recently — offering a glimmer of hope for producers of the battery metal that have been hammered by plunging prices.

The global lithium industry is grappling with the effects of the past year’s price collapse, from slumping profits to production cuts and spending reviews. Producers and investors are looking for any signs that demand and prices are steadying.

“All our customers, for avoidance of doubt, are taking their product and, in some cases, asking for more,” said Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director Dale Henderson. Enquiries from potential buyers have picked up, and “I think we’ve had more over the last eight weeks than we’ve had for quite some period,” he said.

The moderately hopeful comments came after a flurry of Australian lithium producers reported weaker half-year earnings. Pilbara Minerals said underlying profit sank 78% to A$273 million ($179 million), while Mineral Resources Ltd. reported a 49% decline in underlying profit and IGO Ltd. said net income dropped 53%.

Prices for lithium have showed signs of bottoming out in the past three months, but they are still about 80% lower than their record high in late 2022. Albemarle Corp., the world’s biggest producer, said last week that such levels were “unsustainable”.

The current price is a floor and there will be incremental improvement during this year, Chris Ellison, Chief Executive Officer of Mineral Resources, said on a conference call Thursday.

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