Manufacturing and Markets
Lithium has become a popular alternative investment. Lithium batteries, much more efficient than traditional nickel-metal hydroxide ones, are in high demand from the automobile and electronics industries. The estimations of the global market size for lithium-ion batteries range from $26 billion in 2023 to optimistic $33 billion in 2019.
Lithium possesses a unique chemical profile making it the lightest metal in the periodic table and the least dense solid element. Its atomic number is 3, and its density is just 0.53 kg/L. This alkali metal is probably best-known for its wide use in lithium batteries common in all sorts of electronics devices. Other industrial applications include manufacturing heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high-performance alloys used in aircraft, and lubricating greases. Lithium deuteride is used in staged thermonuclear weapons as a fusion fuel. Compounds of lithium are also used as mood stabilizing drugs in psychiatry. The breakdown of the global end-use lithium markets is estimated as follows: ceramics and glass, 31%; batteries, 23%; lubricating greases, 9%; air treatment, 6%; primary aluminum production, 6%; continuous casting, 4%; rubber and thermoplastics, 4%; pharmaceuticals, 2%.
The global production of lithium is to triple this century, from 200,000 tons in the year 2000 to over 600,000 tons in 2020. Mining lithium metal is not expensive, especially at high mountain plateaus, where lithium is collected from brine ponds evaporated by the sun.
Identified lithium resources total 5.5 million tons in the United States and approximately 34 million tons in other countries, so lithium is not, in fact, a rare commodity. Identified lithium resources for Bolivia and Chile are 9 million tons and in excess of 7.5 million tons, respectively. Identified lithium resources for Argentina, China, and Australia are 6.5 million tons, 5.4 million tons, and 1.7 million tons, respectively. Canada, Congo (Kinshasa), Russia, and Serbia have resources of approximately 1 million tons each. Identified lithium resources for Brazil total 180,000 tons.
The world’s top 3 lithium-producing countries from 2014, as reported by the US Geological Survey