Around the world, lithium mines are emerging to meet the needs of the transition to electric cars. If Australia concentrates immense mineral reserves, the other continents are not left out, whether in America, Africa and Asia.
Australia provided half of the world’s lithium in 2021, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The Greenbushes mine alone produced one in five batteries that year. The operator, Talison Lithium, has obtained permission to double the size of the mine located in Western Australia. With its reserves of 70 million tons, the Greenbushes mine is preparing to meet the growing global demand for lithium, largely to equip automobiles with electric motors. Lithium demand could increase 40 times by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Chile’s subsoil contains the largest lithium reserves on the planet, representing 40% of the world’s stock. This South American country has 9.2 million metric tons of the metal needed to manufacture electric car batteries. Albemarle Corporation has big ambitions for the Salar d’Atacama mine, for which it holds the exploitation rights until 2043. The mining company will implement its direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology by 2028, which aims to preserve groundwater in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions in the world. A water desalination plant could be built to supply the mine.
The Jiajika mine is Asia’s largest deposit of spodumene, an ore from which lithium is extracted. This site represents half of China’s reserves. This open-pit mine is operated in Sichuan province by the Chinese firm Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium. Stopped for five years for polluting rivers, the mine resumed its activity in 2019, with an operation planned to last 29 years. Annual production would reach 1 million tons of spodumene, while Chinese lithium consumption remains primarily supplied by Australia.
Argentina exploits relatively little of its lithium-rich subsoil. But things are changing. The country could overtake Chile by 2030, according to a report by the Chilean Copper Commission (Cochilco). One of the promising projects is led by the American mining company Livent, which is preparing to merge with Allkem to form the third largest lithium operator in the world. The firm will invest 1.1 billion US to triple its activity at its Catamarca mine, which should increase from 20,000 to 60,000 tonnes by the end of 2025.