China has reportedly cracked the technical hurdle in mining and extracting lithium from its vast deposits of the soft, silvery-white metal, slashing the unit cost of mining and production to as low as 15,000 yuan (US$2,180) per tonne.
Lithium, the source of power for almost all portable equipment, has thus become significantly cheaper, according to the Beijing-based Economic Daily and other Chinese papers.
The metal that also fuels the world’s drive to green transportation is extracted from brine but experts say separating it from other elements present in the salts is costly.
Citing a government report, the South China Morning Post noted that a 15-year marathon research project led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences ultimately bore fruit with a cost-effective technique to extract lithium from other minerals using a complicated electronic membrane filtering process.
The new process has further widened the fat markup enjoyed by Chinese suppliers, at a time when prices of lithium for export range from US$12,000 to US$20,000 per tonne.
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