Almost 60 percent of supply from world’s planned large lithium projects through about the next five years will be added in Australia. Australia will cement its position as the top supplier of lithium according to CRU Group. The biggest mines due to enter production next year are both about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Port Hedland.
Pilbara Minerals Ltd. is targeting shipments to start in the second quarter of 2018 from its Pilgangoora project and advancing work on a potential expansion. Altura Mining is on schedule to start output in the first quarter and is also preparing to rapidly boost output.
Along with nearby Mineral Resources Ltd.’s Wodgina mine — the biggest known hard rock lithium deposit — these and other projects form an emerging cluster of global production, according to both Altura and Pilbara.
Australia will account for about 37 percent of production in 2027, ahead of Argentina’s 18 percent.
Macquarie Group has warned there’s a bearish outlook for lithium prices in the short-to-medium term as “too many Australian rock producers are crowding in” with new projects. The surge is threatening to create a period of oversupply before rising demand for electric vehicles clears the surplus from about 2021.
An operation in Argentina’s Jujuy state, an Argentine-Australian-Japanese joint venture, is one of the country’s two working lithium mines. Last year it produced 11,845 tonnes of lithium carbonate, about 6% of the world’s output. This year Sales de Jujuy plans to make 17,500 tonnes.
Lithium-ion batteries store energy that powers mobile phones, electric cars and electricity grids (when attached to wind turbines and photovoltaic cells). Joe Lowry, an expert on Lihtium, expects demand to nearly triple by 2025.
There is 230 billion tons of lithium in the oceans seawater. South Korea POSCO built a plant to extract lithium from seawater.
Lithium is present in seawater at a concentration of approximately 0.2ppm.