An in-depth look at lithium – by Ron Hall (Resource World – October 22, 2021)

According to the latest report (August 2021) from Roskill, the leading consultancy in critical metals supply chain intelligence, the outlook for the lithium market is dominated by rapid and sustained demand growth, driven by the use of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries in automotive and energy storage applications (ESS).

Furthermore, Roskill expect that fundamental changes in operation size and the range of lithium production sources will be needed to meet forecast demand growth and avoid a growing supply deficit and for this to succeed, producers will require adequate lithium compound prices to attract investment and incentivise the develop of lithium resources, a factor which is expected to see lithium prices well supported over the period to 2031.

Lithium does not occur as the metal in nature but is found combined in small amounts in nearly all igneous rocks and in the waters of many mineral springs. Spodumene, petalite, lepidolite, and amblygonite are the more important minerals containing lithium.

The first lithium mineral petalite, LiAlSi4O10, was discovered on the Swedish island of Utö by the Brazilian, Jozé Bonifácio de Andralda e Silva in the 1790s. It was observed to give an intense crimson flame when thrown onto a fire. In 1817, Johan August Arfvedson of Stockholm analysed it and deduced it contained a previously unknown metal, which he called lithium. He realized this was a new alkali metal and a lighter version of sodium.

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