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The Earth Has 86 Million Tons of Lithium Resources

Lithium is the lightest of all metals and more abundant than tin, lead or silver. It is best known as a component in batteries, but it has many additional uses. Global consumption held steady in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the numbers:

The Earth Has 86 Million Tons of Lithium Resources   ©The Earth & I
  • Owing to continuing exploration, identified lithium resources worldwide total about 80 million tons (data in metric tons). Lithium resources in the United States—from continental brines, geothermal brines, hectorite, oilfield brines, and pegmatites—are 7.9 million tons. Lithium resources in other countries have been revised to 78 million tons.

  • Lithium is nearly half as dense as water, and is the lightest of all metals. At its current level of abundance, lithium ranks 30th among the elements, behind copper and ahead of lead, tin, and silver.

  • Five mineral operations in Australia, two brine operations each in Argentina and Chile, and two brine and one mineral operation in China account for most of the world’s lithium production.

  • Respectively, in 2020, Australia produced the most lithium (40,000 tons), followed by Chile (18,000 tons), China (14,000 tons), and Argentina (6,200 tons).

  • The only lithium production in the United States is a brine operation in Nevada; domestic production numbers are privately held by two mining companies.

  • Global consumption of lithium content in 2020 was 56,000 tons, about the same as in 2019. While the COVID-19 pandemic initially reduced customer demand, there was strong growth in the lithium-ion battery market later in the year.

  • Although lithium markets vary by location, global end-use markets are estimated as follows: batteries, 71%; ceramics and glass, 14%; lubricating greases, 4%; continuous casting mold flux powders, 2%; polymer production, 2%; air treatment, 1%; and other uses, 6%.

  • Millions of people worldwide are treated with a daily dosage of lithium carbonate for bipolar disorder.

  • It is estimated that worldwide resources of lithium will meet projected demand at least to the year 2100.


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