Lithium is in high demand due to the burgeoning production of electric vehicles using lithium-ion batteries, but there is a global shortage of metal, with western countries rushing to set up new mines to compete with China.
The Serbian government on Thursday withdrew licenses for a major lithium project owned by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Plc.
Following are some key facts about large mines and lithium supplies, based on data from the Australian Department of Industry, the US Geological Survey, company reports and a report from Credit Suisse.
Lithium is currently produced from freestone or brine mines. Australia is the world’s largest supplier, with production from freestone mines. Argentina, Chile and China mainly produce it from salt lakes.
Total global production, measured as lithium carbonate equivalent, was forecast in December at 485,000 tons in 2021, growing to 615,000 tons in 2022 and 821,000 tons in 2023, according to the Australian Department of Industry.
Credit Suisse analysts are more conservative, with production reaching 588,000 tons in 2022 and 736,000 tons in 2023, and forecast demand to outpace supply growth, with demand reaching 689,000 tons in 2022 and 902,000 tons in 2023. , with about two-thirds of that for electric vehicle batteries.
Lithium carbonate prices have risen to record highs over the past year due to strong demand from Chinese battery manufacturers.
Global top 10 producer Allkem said on January 18 that he expects prices to rise to about $20,000 (about Rs. 15 lakh) per ton at the point of loading in the half-year to June, an increase of about 80% from the half year to December 2021.
The largest mines in the world
Greenbushes, Western Australia, Talison Lithium (a joint venture of Tianqi Lithium, IGO and Albemarle. Current production capacity of 1.34 million tons per year of chemical and technical lithium concentrate.
Pilgangoora, Western Australia, owned by Pilbara Minerals, expects to produce 400,000-450,000 tons of spodumene concentrate in the year to June 2022.
Mt Cattlin, Western Australia, owned by Allkem, the company formed from the merger of Orocobre and Galaxy Resources, produced 230,065 tonnes of spodumene concentrate in 2021.
Mibra, Minas Gerais, Brazil, owned by Advanced Metallurgical Group, produces 90,000 tons of spodumene annually.
Mount Marion, Western Australia, owned by Mineral Resources Ltd, is on track to produce 450,000-475,000 tons of spodumene by June 2022.
Salar de Atacama, Antofagasta, Chile, owned by Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), produces 110,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually.
Chaerhan Lake Mine, in Qinghai, China, owned by Qinghai Salt Lake BYD Resources Development Co, 10,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year
Yajiang Cuola Mine, Sichuan, China, owned by Tianqi Lithium, 10,000 tons per year capacity.
© Thomson Reuters 2022