High growth in demand for lithium batteries is spurring three-fold growth in mine production of lithium over the next four years, with 86kt of new lithium metal capacity coming on stream, according to data and analytics company GlobalData.
After moderate growth in lithium supply between 2010 and 2017 of 6.4% per annum, global output is expected to triple between 2018 and 2022 to reach 154kt (metal content), as 86kt of new metal capacity comes on stream to meet the increasing demand for the metal for use in batteries in electric vehicles and smartphones.—Sameer Chakravarthy, Mining Analyst at GlobalData
Currently, the highest production is in Australia with 18.3kt, followed by Chile and Argentina with 14.1kt and 5.5kt respectively. Three spodumene operations in Australia and two brine operations each in Argentina and Chile accounted for the majority of world lithium production in 2017, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Among the largest global producers are SQM—market leader with a 25% share of global production—followed by Talison with 24%, Albemarle with 17% and FMC with 9%.
Over the next four years, Australia will account for the largest share of the additional capacity with 37%, with mine openings at Pilgangoora, Wodgina, Bald Hill and Mt Holland.
It will be followed by Argentina with 29%, Canada with 16%, Chile with 9%, the US with 6%, and Mexico with 4%.
According to the USGS, lithium resources have increased substantially worldwide due to continuing exploration, and total more than 53 million tons. Identified lithium resources in the United States, from continental brines, geothermal brines, hectorite, oilfield brines, and pegmatites, have been revised to 6.8 million tons.
Identified lithium resources in other countries have been revised to approximately 47 million tons.
Identified lithium resources in Argentina are 9.8 million tons; Bolivia, 9 million tons; Chile, 8.4 million tons; China, 7 million tons; Australia, 5 million tons; Canada, 1.9 million tons; Congo (Kinshasa), Russia, and Serbia, 1 million tons each; Czechia, 840,000 tons; Zimbabwe, 500,000 tons; Spain, 400,000 tons; Mali, 200,000 tons; Brazil and Mexico, 180,000 tons each; Portugal, 100,000 tons; and Austria, 50,000 tons.