Australia mines about 53 percent of the world's supply of lithium, and virtually all of it is sold to China.
The rock dug out of the ground in Australia has to be crushed and roasted to produce spodumene. This material, which contains about 6% lithium, is then shipped from Australia to China, which refines 60% of the world's lithium and 80% of the world's lithium hydroxide – though this may be changing.
While Australia accounted for 43 percent of global lithium extraction in 2022 (almost all exported to China), it has only just started processing spodumene into the more valuable lithium hydroxide.
Nearly 80 per cent of known deposits are in four countries – the South American lithium triangle of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, and Australia.
Canada, China and Australia have significant resources of lithium minerals, while lithium brine is produced predominantly in Chile, followed by Argentina, China and the USA. Lithium brines are the dominant feedstock for lithium carbonate production.
Pilbara Minerals Limited ($PLS)
Australia's biggest lithium miner, Pilbara Minerals owns the Pilgangoora Project in Western Australia, which has an estimated mine life of 26 years and a maximum production capacity of 580,000 tonnes per annum.
Chile holds the world's largest lithium reserves and is the world's second-largest producer. Lithium is currently produced from hard rock or brine mines. Australia is the world's biggest supplier, with production from hard rock mines.
Lithium is important to the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries and because China is the world's biggest market for new energy vehicles, lithium is particularly critical to its electric vehicle manufacturing industry.
Tesla has previously inked deals with Australia's own BHP, Syrah Resources, Liontown Resources and Piedmont Lithium to supply critical battery resources.
China's the largest consumer of lithium because of its booming electronics and electric vehicle industries.
Lithium extraction has adverse impacts on the environment, like any other mineral that we mine for. However, similar to coal and gas, lithium mining can result in soil degradation, water shortages, biodiversity loss, damage to ecosystem functions, air contamination and, overtime, an increase in global warming.
Are lithium shares a good investment? While lithium share prices can be volatile due to supply-demand issues that impact the value of lithium as a commodity, the lithium sector does have good long-term growth prospects as the demand for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) continues to increase.
The process of extracting lithium consumes significant amounts of water and energy, and lithium mining can pollute the air and water with chemicals and heavy metals. In addition, mining lithium can disrupt wildlife habitats and cause soil erosion, leading to long-term ecological damage.
In recent years, China has mainly relied on imports to meet domestic requirements for lithium carbonate products although China is one of the countries rich in lithium source reserves.
Chinese companies have long dominated lithium refining, but their hunt to secure a greater share of the world's supplies of the metal is leading them to buy up stakes in mines throughout the developing world as they face increasing resistance in Western countries.
More than 80% of the world's raw lithium is mined in Australia, Chile, and China. And China controls more than half of the world's lithium processing and refining and has three-fourths of the lithium-ion battery megafactories in the world, according to the International Energy Agency.
Kovyktinskoye is the largest gas field in Eastern Russia. Lithium is contained in the associated brines, and there has been talk about its extraction for several years. The process accelerated in 2022, and Kovyktinskoye was put into production in late December 2022.
Two countries, Chile and Australia, hold the world's largest lithium reserves with 9.2 million metric tonnes and 5.7 million metric tonnes respectively.
Tesla officially broke ground Monday on a Texas lithium refinery, making it the only U.S. automaker to refine its own lithium. CEO Elon Musk said the refinery will produce enough battery-grade lithium for 1 million electric vehicles by 2025, which would make Tesla the largest processor of lithium in North America.
The Greenbushes lithium mine is an open-pit mining operation which is in Western Australia and is the world's largest hard-rock lithium mine.
This has been one of our best shares to buy. We first recommended it when it's share price was 32c! Pilbara owns 100% of the world's largest, independent hard-rock lithium project. It will produce over 1 million tonnes of spodumene a year from 2025, in a sign the battery metal is not slowing down.