Lithium, the world's lightest metal, used to have a low profile.
Now, as a key component of lithium-ion batteries, it is seen as a product of the future. Such batteries are used in digital devices as mobile phones and electric vehicles and are seen as promising forms of large-scale electricity storage.
Lithium production worldwide is set to grow strongly and a major expansion is underway. In the past two years, production has commenced at two mines in Australia. Production will ramp up this year at three new mines, while further mines are at different planning stages.
Production is also set to grow strongly in South America. The two major producers in Chile reached an agreement with the government in the first quarter of this year to increase their production. In Argentina, the major lithium producer plans to expand production.
For use in batteries, lithium is processed into a special grade of lithium carbonate or into lithium hydroxide. China plays an important role in processing. It is also the world’s largest market for lithium-ion batteries. And Chinese companies are actively engaged in mining, processing and purchasing lithium ores and concentrates in other parts of the world.