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Thailand discovers lithium resources; size in question

According to a Nikkei report, Thai officials reported the discovery of lithium deposits that they at the time of the announcement described as the world’s third-largest reserves. Lithium deposits were found at two locations in the southern province of Phang-Nga—the Ruangkiat and Bang Etu sites.

According to initial reports, the location was estimated to have deposits of 14.8 million tonnes containing lithium; it verified, this would place Thailand third behind Bolivia (21 million tonnes) and Argentina (20 million tonnes) based on known lithium deposits, according to a Thai government spokesperson.

Subsequently, however, deputy government spokeswoman Radklao Inthawong Suwankiri clarified that the 14.8 million tonnes represent total mineral resources and not lithium resources. The report said the sites contained lepidolite, which has an average lithium oxide content of 0.45%.

Global lithium production (excluding US production) expanded 21% in 2022 to approximately 130,000 tonnes, according to the US Geological Service (USGS). Six mineral operations in Australia, one mineral tailings operation in Brazil, two brine operations each in Argentina and Chile, and three mineral and two brine operations in China accounted for the majority of world lithium production.

Thailand positions electric vehicles as a pivotal growth industry, and Bangkok is working to draw investment from major overseas manufacturers.

On 12 January, Great Wall Motor became the first Chinese automaker to start manufacturing EVs in Thailand. In December 2023, the Thai government announced that Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and two other Japanese automakers will invest a total of $4.22 billion in Thailand over five years toward local production of EVs.


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