In recent years, the development of lithium resources, known as "white oil", has continued to be hot. In addition to traditional lithium mineral producing areas, North America, Africa, and South Asia have become the latest hot spots for lithium resource development. The industry generally estimates that global lithium resource supply is expected to continue to grow, enough to meet rising industry demand.
Volcanic lithium ore may contain tens of millions of tons of lithium
According to the latest research article published in Science Advances, a subsidiary of the American magazine Science, the United States has discovered what may be the world's largest lithium deposit. Data released by "Science Advances" shows that the lithium mine discovered this time is located in the McDermit Crater in southeastern Oregon, USA. It is roughly estimated that it is likely to contain about 20 million tons to 40 million tons of lithium salt resources, with the highest The reserves can even reach 120 million tons. Based on the current price of lithium carbonate of US$30,000/ton, the total value of this lithium resource is expected to exceed US$1 trillion.
Previous studies have shown that global lithium resource reserves are abundant, mainly found in pegmatites, limestone veins and salt lake resources. Lithium resources are relatively rare in volcanic deposits. The sedimentary soil of the volcanic lithium deposit discovered this time has a shallow depth and a relatively high lithium content. The industry generally believes that the development of this lithium deposit is relatively easy.
It is understood that currently, the world’s largest lithium resource reserve is the Bolivian Salt Flats, with reserves estimated to reach 23 million tons. With the further exploration of McDermit Crater lithium resources, research published in "Science Advances" believes that the lithium mine may become the world's largest single lithium deposit.
In fact, researchers discovered lithium resources near McDermit Crater many years ago. As the lithium reserves in the area are known to continue to expand, the market has paid increasing attention to the area. Among them, the American lithium mining company Lithium Americas has launched a local lithium mining and production plan, and the project is expected to be officially put into production by the end of this year.
"Whether it is in terms of price, supply security or geopolitics, this discovery may change the global lithium supply and demand situation." Anouk Borst, a geologist at the University of Leuven, said.
New lithium resources discovered in many places
With the global green and low-carbon transformation and the development of the electric vehicle industry, the demand for lithium mines has increased, and the short-term mismatch between supply and demand has even caused drastic fluctuations in lithium prices. In order to ensure the supply security of upstream mineral resources, many countries around the world have joined the “lithium mining” craze in recent years. Currently, global lithium ore production mainly comes from Australia, Chile, Argentina and other countries, while Africa, Asia, North America and other regions also have huge lithium resource reserves.
In the first half of this year, the Canadian province of Quebec quickly approved multiple lithium mine development projects and proposed to significantly increase Canadian lithium production. Public information shows that in August this year, the lithium mining company Alken’s James Bay lithium mine in Quebec, Canada, increased its resources by 173% year-on-year, and the James Bay lithium mine’s annual spodumene concentrate production capacity can reach 330,000 tons. .
In addition to North America, Africa is also a hot spot for lithium mine development. Data shows that large-scale lithium mineral resources have been newly discovered in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and other countries. "We have seen a lot of investment into mineral resource development over the past few years, and tapping the full potential of the mining industry means we will move further up the value chain." Prosp, development economist at the Zimbabwe Institute of Labor and Economic Development Chitambara said.
In August this year, the Indian Parliament also passed a law that allows the government to auction newly discovered lithium mineral resources to private organizations for the first time to increase the supply of key raw materials for electric vehicle batteries. The Indian government stated in a statement that this move is expected to significantly increase the scale of lithium mining to meet the country's growing demand.
Lithium salt supply enters a period of heavy volume
With countries actively developing new resources, the industry generally believes that global lithium salt supply is expected to continue to grow, and the supply gap is expected to be filled in the short term.
In 2022, global lithium production will be approximately 860,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent, and as demand continues to expand, global lithium resource development is becoming increasingly active. Data shows that in 2022, there will be more than 40 lithium mine production projects worldwide, and it is expected that there will be more than 100 lithium mine production projects worldwide after 2025.
According to the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, global lithium mine production will continue to rise. By 2025, lithium supply will increase to 1.472 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent, which will play a stabilizing role in global lithium prices. The agency believes that although global lithium prices may fluctuate this year, the supply of lithium mines is expected to be able to make up for the gap between 2024 and 2025, and lithium prices are also expected to decline.
Not only that, major lithium producers in various countries are not only actively exploring new resources, but also gradually expanding production in existing lithium deposits. Take Albemarle Company of the United States as an example. The company recently acquired Liontown, an Australian battery mineral supplier. Its main lithium deposit Kathleen Valley will be put into production in 2024, and will subsequently be expanded to an annual output of 700,000 tons of spodumene concentrate. mine. In addition, mainstream lithium producers such as Chilean lithium mining giant SQM, Tianqi Lithium, Ganfeng Lithium, and Shengxin Lithium Energy are also actively expanding the production capacity of lithium salts such as lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide.