Australia has taken over Chile as the world’s largest lithium producing nation boosted mainly by record output at two major mines, data from United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows.
Down Under produced 18,700 tonnes of lithium in 2017, according to the USGS, thanks mainly to Western Australia-based mines — Galaxy Resources’ Mt Cattlin and Mt Marion, owned by Neometals and China’s Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium.
Chile, which holds the largest known lithium reserves in the world (about 52%), only produced 14,100 tonnes of the white metal last year, which meant its market share dropped to 32.8% from 37.6% in 2016. Australia, instead, went from having 36.8% of the global market to 43.5% in the same period.
Both Chilean authorities and analysts believe the situation is only momentary, as the South American country’s development agency Corfo recently struck a deal with local producer SQM, which allows it to expand its production capacity of lithium from 48,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes this year, and then to 100,000 tonnes by 2019.
“One of the main factors that have impacted Chile’s leadership is that we have engaged in ideological discussions about who can mine lithium and how much, which has hinder the market’s development,” Mining Deputy Minister, Pablo Terrazas, told La Tercera newspaper.
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