Due to the rapid growth of electric vehicles and the use of lithium-ion batteries, lithium is in high demand, but there is a global shortage of the metal, as Western countries rush to develop new mines for compete with China.
British-Australian miner Rio Tinto Plc’s lithium project, whose licenses were revoked by Serbian authorities on Thursday, is expected to prolong the supply shortage until the middle of the decade, industry experts say.
Based on data from the Australian Department of Industry, the US Geological Survey, company reports and a Credit Suisse report, here are some key facts about lithium mines and their supply.
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Currently, lithium is mined from hard rock mines or brine mines. With hard rock mines, Australia is the world’s leading supplier. Argentina, Chile and China produce it mainly from salt lakes.
In December, Australia’s Department of Industry forecast total global production to be 485,000 tonnes in 2021, 615,000 tonnes in 2022 and 821,000 tonnes in 2023.
According to Credit Suisse analysts, production in 2022 is expected to be 588,000 tons and 736,000 tons in 2023, and forecast demand is expected to exceed supply, with 809,500 tons in demand in 2022 and 902,000 tons in 2023, of which about two-thirds. switch to electric vehicle batteries.
Over the past year, lithium carbonate prices have soared due to strong demand from Chinese battery makers. The world’s top 10 producer, Allkem, said on Jan. 18 that it expects prices in the half-year to June to rise to around $20,000 a ton at point of loading, up around 80% from in the semester to December 2021.
THE LARGEST MINES IN THE WORLD
There is currently a production capacity of 1.34 million tonnes per annum of technical grade and chemical grade lithium concentrate at Talison Lithium in Greenbushes, Western Australia. In the year to June 2022, Pilbara Minerals expects Pilgangoora, Western Australia to produce 400,000 to 450,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate.
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. Spodumene is produced at the Mibra mine in Minas Gerais , in Brazil, owned by Advanced Metallurgical Group. In the year to June 2022, Mineral Resources Ltd’s Mount Marion mine in Western Australia is on track to produce 450,000 to 475,000 tonnes of spodumene.
Atacama Saltar, Antofagasta, Chile, owned by Sociedad Chilena de Minera y Quimica (SQM). This lithium carbonate mine produces 110,000 tons per year.
Located in Qinghai, China, the Chaerhan Lake mine is owned by Qinghai Salt Lake BYD Resources Development Co and can produce 10,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year.
Tianqi Lithium owns the Yajiang Cuola mine in Sichuan, China, which can produce 10,000 tons of lithium per year.
With contributions from Reuters