A handful of countries in the world dominate the lithium-production industry – and they have no trouble finding buyers for their wares. Lithium has become a material almost as vital for our energy future as coal, oil and gas have been in the past. The reason for this is that lithium is, naturally enough, the main material needed for the manufacture of the lithium-ion battery – and those are in high demand.
Lithium-ion batteries are so important these days simply because batteries have become so important these days. In fact, li-ion batteries are not only making possible new dominant technologies such as the electric vehicles which are soon to completely take over our roads, but they are also replacing a range of pre-existing batteries technologies. An example of this is the USB C rechargeable batteries, produced by tech company Pale Blue Earth, which are replacing traditional AA and AA household batteries with advanced li-ion versions.
An abundance of lithium has become a massive benefit for any country, securing their place within the global economy of the future.
How Lithium is Obtained
At the heart of global lithium production, however, stands a few pretty thorny issues that are, as yet, far from resolved. One of these is the problem that lithium mining and li-ion battery production are both processes which are far from environmentally friendly. Lithium mining can wreck local ecosystems and is an energy intensive, environmentally harmful process.
This is problematic, considering that, in the case of electric cars at least, the whole point of this new technology is to do something about the looming environmental crisis. The burden then falls on the top lithium producing countries to account for this. Something they do to varying degrees.
We are all familiar with the massive power gained by countries which, in the past, controlled oil and gas supplies. Wars have been fought over less and, seeing as lithium is becoming so vital to our energy future, whoever controls both the lithium supply and the production of li-ion batteries is sure to be in an enviable geopolitical position.
And this leads us to a further point – lithium production and li-ion battery production are not the same thing. And the countries which produce the most lithium are not necessarily the countries producing the most batteries. And many would like to avoid any one country holding a monopoly over either.
The Top Lithium Producing Countries
So, with that crucial point about the difference between lithium and lithium-battery production out of the way, here are the top lithium producing countries in the world. This is essential data for anyone wishing to understand the energy future.
Australia – 42,000 tons p/a
Australia produces by far the most lithium – usually coming from hard rock mining.
Chile – 18,000 tons
A distant second place is Chile, which is often said to be in a “lithium triangle” with Bolivia and Argentina.
China – 7,500 tons
The thing to remember here is that, although third for lithium production, China produces the most li-ion batteries – mainly for its own domestic market.
Argentina – 6,400 tons
Although positioned fourth, Argentina is actually sitting on the world’s largest untapped lithium reserves.
Zimbabwe – 1,600 tons
The only African nation represented, Zimbabwe’s high lithium production could grant it some kind of regional dominance in the future.
Portugal – 1,200 tons
Top in Europe, Portugal also has significant untapped reserves. Lithium could decide this country’s economic future.
All of this shows that, when we study global lithium production, we could be looking at nothing less than one of the major factors in the emergence of a new global order.