Global lithium production is set to triple over the next four years, according to information from data and analytics company GlobalData.
Between 2018 and 2022, lithium supply is expected to triple to 154,000 tonnes (t), an increase in metal capacity of 86,000t, largely to meet the global demand for the metal as a battery material for electric vehicles, smartphones and other electronics.
Australia is expected to lead in lithium production for the next four years. In particular, Western Australian hard rock mines are expected to be a primary source of the in-demand metal (South American lithium production tends towards brine extraction).
Major mine openings at Wodgina (Mineral Resources), Mt Holland (Kidman/SQM), Bald Hill (Tawana/Alliance Mineral Assets) and Pilgangoora (Pilbara Minerals) are expected to increase Australian capacity by 37 per cent.
Currently, Australian production leads globally at 18,300t/y, while Chile and Argentina take second and third place at 14,100t/y and 5,500t/y respectively.
Two companies are responsible for nearly half of current production. The world’s largest producer of lithium is Chile’s SQM (Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile), which is responsible for 25 per cent of global production, though Australia’s Talison Lithium is a very close second at 24 per cent of production.
Argentinian production is becoming increasingly attractive when compared with its western neighbour however, as the country is expected to account for a 29 per cent share of additional capacity over the next four years (second to Australia), while Chile stands to increase by a more modest 9 per cent in the same period.