Visualizing 25 years of lithium production, by country

Lithium production by country (1995-2021)

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Lithium is often referred to as “white gold” for electric vehicles.

The light metal plays a key role in the cathodes of all types of lithium ion batteries that power electric vehicles. Consequently, the recent surge in EV adoption has pushed lithium production to new highs.

The infographic above shows more than 25 years of lithium production by country from 1995 to 2021, according to BP data. Statistical review of World Energy.

The largest lithium producers over time

In the 1990s, the US was the largest producer of lithium, in stark contrast to today.

In fact, the US accounted for more than one third of world lithium production in 1995. From then until 2010, Chile took over as the largest producer with a production boom in the Salar de Atacama, one of the richest lithium brine deposits in the world.

Exceeded world lithium production 100,000 tons for the first time in 2021, quadrupling since 2010. Additionally, approximately 90% of it came from only three countries.

Range Country Production 2021 (tons) % of the total
#1 Australia πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί 55,416 52%
#2 Chile πŸ‡¨πŸ‡± 26,000 25%
#3 Chinese πŸ‡¨πŸ‡³ 14,000 13%
#4 Argentina πŸ‡¦πŸ‡· 5,967 6%
#5 Brazil πŸ‡§πŸ‡· 1,500 1%
#6 Zimbabwe πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡Ό 1200 1%
#7 Portugal πŸ‡΅πŸ‡Ή 900 1%
#8 United States πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ 900 1%
Rest of the world 🌍 102 0.1%
Total 105,984 100%

Australia alone produces 52% of the world’s lithium. Unlike Chile, where lithium is extracted from brines, Australia’s lithium comes from hard rock mines to obtain the mineral spodumene.

China, the third largest producer, has a strong foothold in the lithium supply chain. In addition to developing domestic mines, Chinese companies have acquired around $5.6 billion value of lithium assets in countries such as Chile, Canada and Australia during the last decade. also houses 60% of the world’s lithium refining capacity for batteries.

Batteries have been one of the main drivers of the exponential increase in lithium production. But how much lithium do batteries use, and how much goes to other uses?

What is lithium used for?

While lithium is best known for its role in rechargeable batteries, and rightly so, it has many other important uses.

Before electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries transformed the lithium demandthe end uses of the metal looked completely different compared to today.

end use Lithium Consumption 2010 (%) Lithium Consumption 2021 (%)
batteries 23% 74%
ceramic and glass 31% 14%
lubricating greases 10% 3%
air treatment 5% 1%
continuous auditions 4% 2%
Other 27% 6%
Total 100% 100%

In 2010, ceramics and glass accounted for the majority of lithium consumption in 31%. In ceramics and glassware, lithium carbonate increases strength and reduces thermal expansion, often essential for modern ceramic cooktops.

Lithium is also used to make lubricating greases for the transportation, steel, and aviation industries, along with other lesser-known uses.

The future of lithium production

As the world produces more batteries and electric vehicles, demand for lithium is projected to reach 1.5 million tons lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) by 2025 and beyond 3 million tons by 2030.

For context, the world produced 540,000 tons of LCE in 2021. Based on previous demand projections, production should triple by 2025 and increase almost six times by 2030.

Although supply has been on a trajectory of exponential growth, it can take anywhere from six to more than 15 years for new lithium projects to come online. As a result, the lithium market is projected to be in deficit for the next several years.

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