Are mining companies jumping the gun on lithium? – by Umar Ali (Mining Technology – January 13, 2020)

Lithium has skyrocketed on the back of huge demand created by the battery industry. While lithium demand shows few signs of slowing down, battery technology is changing at an enormous pace. Projects around the world are exploring alternatives to lithium, promising that a breakthrough is just around the corner. We ask the question: should miners be going all in for lithium?

The lithium rush

Global efforts to reduce emissions have driven demand for technology such as electric vehicles, which has increased demand for the lithium needed for batteries.

According to analysis from Benchmark Minerals, demand for lithium ion batteries has tripled since 2015 to 180 gigawatt hours (GWh), reaching the levels initially predicted for 2020.

Thailand-based renewable energy company Energy Absolute announced plans in 2018 to build a 50GWh lithium-ion battery plant, which is expected to be fully completed by July 2020. India is also boosting its production of lithium batteries by investing $4bn in four lithium production plants.

This increased demand has caused mining companies to invest heavily in lithium mining projects around the world, hoping to capitalise on a global shift to renewable technologies. Since 2017, six lithium mines have opened in Australia, and some of the world’s largest lithium mines are being developed to ensure a constant supply of the metal in the future.

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