Lithium is an element valuable for the production of glass, aluminum products, and batteries. It is mined from ores of petalite (LiAl(Si2O5)2, lepidolite K(Li,Al)3(Al,Si,Rb)4O10(F,OH)2, spodumene LiAl(SiO3)2 and also subsurface brines. Australia and Chile are the world’s largest producers of lithium.
Lithium compounds are used in ceramics and glass, in primary aluminum production, in the manufacture of lubricants and greases, rocket propellants, vitamin A synthesis, silver solders, underwater buoyancy devices, and increasingly in batteries.
Lithium batteries are proving to be an effective and affordable alternative to traditional batteries, and also in new battery applications. More than 50% of lithium mined is used in batteries. This use has recently increased rapidly spurring an increase in lithium mining to provide the lithium for batteries.
A carbon-free future will require many millions of batteries, both to drive electric vehicles and to store wind and solar power on the grid. Today’s battery chemistries mostly rely on lithium—a metal that could soon face a global supply crunch. Some analysts warn that as EV production soars, lithium producers won’t be able to keep up with demand. That could temporarily pump the brakes on the world’s clean energy ambitions, they say. A lithium deficit would flip what is currently a surplus. Demand from battery manufacturers is now about 300,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) per year, while there is 520,000 metric tons of existing mining capacity for battery markets. Rystad’s analysis shows that demand from manufacturers could reach 2.8 million metric tons in 2028. However, mining capacity is only expected to reach about 2 million metric tons that year, assuming no new mining projects are added to the current pipeline.
Tight Lithium supply leads to the surge of lithium. SQM, Chile-based miner manufacturer, said its sales volume could grow in the year ahead with expected market growth of around 20%.
With the government policy support, EVs industry gains greatest attention and develops fast. Demand of lithium batteries, one of the most important parts of EVs, surges and tightens the lithium supply, which also results in the higher lithium price accordingly.
In the coming few years, lithium supply will become the challenge for the lithium and downstream industries.
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