Peak Lithium? Not So Fast – by David Fickling (Bloomberg News – September 28, 2017)

Does the world have enough lithium? It depends who you ask.A 2008 study by French researcher William Tahil found there were just 3.9 million metric tons of recoverable deposits globally in mineral ores and Andean salt lakes.

That’s little enough that the world would risk running out as demand for lithium-ion car batteries and utility-scale storage ramps up over the coming decades.

A survey the following year by consultants Gerry Clarke and Peter Harben, though, concluded there was about 10 times that amount. Depending on the other parameters applied, those numbers suggest deposits could provide lithium for anything from a further 100 million cars — about 10 percent of the global auto fleet — to 10 billion or more.

That vast range of estimates is inevitable given compounding uncertainties around the quantities available and the amounts needed. Still, a glimpse of how the sausage is made may help to demonstrate why, as we argued in Wednesday’s column, fears of peak supply for battery materials should be taken with a pinch of altiplano salt.

Calculating mineral reserves is a little like working out the contents of a lucky dip by sticking knitting needles into a box. Geologists must drill through rock to produce kilometers of core samples at a cost of several hundred dollars a meter, and then analyze what they’ve dug up to work out the rough shape and concentration of an irregular ore deposit deep below ground — a mineral resource.

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