Often referred to as white gold, Lithium is a much sought after mineral. It is much needed in the energy sector, particularly in lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles. Learn more about the lithium economy in the infographic below:

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The Use of Lithium in the Energy Economy


Known as “white gold”, lithium is currently the hottest mineral on the market


Lithium At A Glance

  • Silver-white colored soft metal
  • Highly flammable and reactive
  • Stored in mineral oil to prevent corrosion and tarnish
  • Commercial lithium production involves isolating lithium from a mixture of potassium chloride and lithium chloride through electrolysis 
  • Uses:
    • Lithium-ion batteries (including powering electric vehicles)
    • Lubricating greases
    • Glass and ceramics
    • Metallurgy
    • Nuclear fusion applications
    • Lithium carbonation (medication for bipolar disorder)

Key Terms To Know

  • Lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE)
    • The first chemical in the lithium production chain
    • Used to calculate lithium production
  • Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries
    • Advanced battery technology that uses lithium ions
    • Capable of very high voltage and charge storage per unit mass and unit volume
  • Direct lithium extraction (DLE)
    • Defined: Brine flows through a lithium-bonding material using adsorption, ion-exchange, membrane-separation, or solvent extraction processes followed by a polishing solution to extract lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide
    • Benefits:
      • Eliminating/reducing the footprint of evaporation ponds
      • Decreasing production times (when compared with conventional brine operations)
      • Increasing recovery from 40% to +80%
      • Reduced need for freshwater
      • Lower usage of reagents
      • Increased product purity (when compared with conventional brine operations)
  • Direct lithium to product
    • Attempts to extract lithium metal in a polymer and then remove the lithium to an electrolyzer tube to create final lithium product
  • Direct shipping ore (DSO)
    • Low-grade spodumene concentrate brought to market in less than 1 year for a brownfield project

Types of DLE Technologies

  • Adsorbents
    • Uses sorbents
    • Used commercially
    • 80-99.9% lithium recovery
  • Ion exchange
    • Uses resins, aluminates, or ceramics
    • Precommercial stage
    • 80-99.9% lithium recovery
  • Solvent extraction
    • Fluid solvent mixture is blended with brine to extract water
    • Precommercial stage
    • 99.9% lithium recovery
  • Membrane separation
    • Used in conjunction with ion exchange and adsorbents/solvent extraction
    • Untapped potential in nanofiltration and reverse osmosis
    • Precommercial stage
    • ≥99% lithium recovery
  • Electrochemical separation
    • Electrochemical extraction of lithium from brine through adsorption or intercalation
    • Precommercial stage
    • +90% lithium recovery


Lithium demand is expected to rise from 500,000 metric tons of LCE in 2021 to three million to four million metric tons in 2030


The Lithium Economy

  • Largest lithium reserves in Chile: 9.2 million metric tons in 2020
  • Largest producer of lithium is Australia
  • Global lithium consumption for batteries: 77.8k mt LCE
  • Global lithium consumption for non-battery uses: 134.9k mt LCE
  • Projected global lithium demand in 2025: 1m mt of LCE
  • Forecasted global lithium supply in 2025: 814k mt of LCE


  • Established lithium-producing nations:
    • Australia
    • Chile
    • China
    • Argentina
  • Nations with recently mapped resources and reserves:
    • Mexico
    • Canada
    • Bolivia
    • United States
    • Ukraine
    • Siberia
    • Thailand
    • United Kingdom
    • Peru


Demand for Lithium will increase by 22x by 2030


The Lithium Supply Chain


  • The US holds just 3.6% of global Lithium reserves, meaning reliance on the international mining industry is greater than ever
  • Major increase of demand for mines specializing in:
    • Graphite
    • Cobalt
    • Nickel
    • REEs
    • Manganese
    • Copper
    • Silicon
    • Chromium
    • Zinc
  • Spotlight: Southern Alberta & Saskatchewan:
    • Compelling Geology
    • Optimal Location
    • Minimal Capital Cost
  • But most of the lithium supply chain is controlled by countries outside the US:
    • Chile (43.7%)
    • Australia (22.3%)
    • Argentina (9.0%)
    • China (7.1%)
    • US (3.6%)

This has led to the greatest supply-demand imbalance in modern times

  • Skyrocketing lithium demand:
  • In 2015:
    • Batteries: <30%
    • Ceramics and glasses: 35%
    • Greases, metallurgical powders, polymers, and other industrial uses: +35%
  • By 2030, batteries will account for 95% of lithium demand
  • The following factors driving demand could account for 4,000 to 4,500 gigawatt-hours of Li-ion use by 2030:
    • Electric vehicles
    • Energy-storage systems
    • E-bikes
    • Electrification of tools
    • Battery-intensive applications


The global push to cut carbon emissions is driving demand for electric vehicles, raising the stakes for lithium producers

Powering Electric Vehicles

  • 8 kg of lithium in a lithium-ion battery pack for a single electric car
  • 100,000 tons of lithium produced globally in 2021
  • 22 million tons of worldwide reserves
    • Sufficient to produce just under 2.5 billion batteries
    • 2 billion battery electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell electric light-duty vehicles needed by 2050 to hit net zero
  • EV demand driving lithium prices by around 550% in one year from 2021 to March 2022:
    • $75,000 per metric ton and lithium hydroxide
    • More than $65,000 per metric ton (compared with a 5-year average of $14,500 per metric ton)
  • 0-80% of lithium in end-of-life batteries may be recycled, depending on the process used
  • By 2030, around 6% of total lithium production will be secondary supply

Lithium-Ion Battery Basics

  • Higher energy density than conventional lead-acid batteries and nickel-metal hydride batteries
  • Self-discharge at a lower rate than other battery types
  • Don’t require periodic full discharges
  • Provide consistent voltage even as the charge degrades
  • Require onboard battery management (software and hardware) to support longevity
  • Require cooling and heating systems to improve efficiency and safety
  • Typical battery warranty of at least 8 years and 100,000 miles
  • Optimum operating range 50-86℉


No doubt there is much to discover about the potential of lithium to transform daily living, from transportation to communication — increasing supply is critical


A lithium-charged future awaits, power up!


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