Shortage of Lithium for EV batteries

Recently, the Serbian Government cancelled licenses for a major lithium project, which is owned by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Plc.

Highlights

  • Lithium is in hot demand because of rapidly growing production of electric vehicles, which use lithium-ion batteries.
  • However, there is a global supply shortage of lithium, with western countries are fighting to bring on new mines in a bid to compete with China.

How is lithium Produced?

Currently, Lithium is produced from hard rock or brine mines. Australia is the world’s biggest supplier, producing from hard rock mines. On the other hand, countries like Argentina, Chile, and China mainly produce lithium from salt lakes. In December 2021, total global production was forecast at 485,000 tonnes, increasing to 615000 tonnes in 2022 and 821000 tonnes in 2023.

Prices of Lithium

Lithium carbonate prices have reached to record highs in past year because of strong demand from Chinese battery makers. According to global top 10 producer Allkem, price is expected to jump to around Rs. 15 lakh per tonne by June 2022, around 80% more than half-year to December 2021.

Which is the World’s biggest mine?

  • Talison Lithium, which is a joint venture of IGO, Tianqi Lithium, and Albemarle is world’s biggest mine. Present production capacity of this mine is 1.34 million tonnes per year of chemical-grade and technical-grade lithium concentrate.
  • Pilgangoora in Western Australia, which is owned by Pilbara Minerals, is expected to produced 400,000-450,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate in June 2022.
  • Mt Cattlin in Western Australia, produced 230,065 tonnes of spodumene concentrate in 2021.
  • Mibra in Brazil, is producing 90,000 tonnes per year of spodumene.

Lithium

Lithium is a chemical element, having symbol Li and atomic number 3. It is a soft and silvery-white alkali metal. It is the least dense metal and least dense solid element. It is highly reactive and flammable. It must be stored in vacuum, inert atmosphere or inert liquid like purified kerosene or mineral oil. It also exhibits a metallic lustre.

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