Global Lithium Developments
Demand for lithium continues to grow globally as new infrastructure developments throughout the lithium supply chain are unveiled. After a year of new heights for the lithium industry as a whole, 2023 is posed for a further leveling up across the board. All global regions are working on increasing production of battery-grade lithium, and wider developments within the electric vehicle and renewable energy markets are also adding to the demand for lithium.
Lithium Projects in Africa
Already a major producer of battery minerals and rare earths, the African continent has seen several developments within the lithium sector. In 2022 important lithium deposits were found in several countries including Ghana, Zimbabwe, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chinese investments followed swiftly, and the country is involved in lithium extraction in the DRC and Zimbabwe – the latter of which has recently banned raw lithium exports to bolster domestic processing. In Ghana, the Ewoyaa lithium project developed by Australia-based Atlantic Lithium is expected to be operational in late 2024, while no clear information is emerging from lithium projects in Mali.
Lithium Projects in Asia
With a solid grip on global battery mineral supply chains, China is an undisputed leader in the lithium sector. Although its ‘lithium capital’ has been shut down due to pollution issues, China continues to invest and be involved across global lithium markets. India is attempting to build its own supply chains to circumvent China, but currently lacks the resources to compete for the time being. In neighboring Australia, funding into the nation’s spodumene lithium mines has continued to pour in as the country seeks to increase its overall output, with industry giants SQM (Chile) and Tianqi (China) getting involved. Already one of the world’s major producers with an established infrastructure, expect interest in Australian lithium to grow in 2023.
Lithium Projects in Europe
Will we see a revival of Rio Tinto’s bid for Serbian lithium? The mining giant’s license in the country was revoked in January 2022 following protests over environmental concerns, but Rio Tinto has not ruled out a return. Last year France announced a new major lithium mine that is expected to be one of the largest in Europe, while lithium projects in Portugal, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Finland are all at various stages of development. The European Union is seeking to secure its own sources of lithium and other battery minerals as the economic bloc ramps up its decarbonization efforts. Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology is being developed in the United Kingdom, where geothermal brines are being considered as a viable extraction opportunity.
Lithium Projects in the Americas
South America’s lithium triangle of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia still holds the world’s largest lithium deposits and remains an area of interest for all major lithium producers and global governments. China, India and Russia are all seeking to tap into new developments in Argentina and Bolivia, while industry giants SQM and Albemarle are developing opportunities for widespread DLE use in Chile. Further north, Mexico is in talks with the United States on a potential deal to boost the lithium and EV markets in both countries, but the U.S.’ participation in lithium markets remains limited. Private companies like EnergyX continue to lead the lithium technology market, but at a governance level, the lack of transparency on domestic lithium developments in the U.S. and little involvement in international markets led G.W. Bush-era assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich to comment that “the Chinese are eating our lunch.”
Lithium in 2023
Lithium will continue to be a hot commodity in 2023. Increased competition at all levels of global supply chains are sure to keep prices high, even as overall production begins to increase. Lithium is critical to the energy and transport sectors of the world as well as each country’s national security – it is an element that will power the future, reduce energy costs, and help build a cleaner, more sustainable tomorrow.