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Visualizing the World’s Largest Lithium Producers

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Lithium Producers

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2022

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on real assets and resource megatrends each week.

Lithium has become essential in recent years, primarily due to the boom in electric vehicles and other clean technologies that rely on lithium batteries.

The global lithium-ion battery market was valued at $52 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $194 billion in 2030.

The infographic above uses data from the United States Geological Survey to explore the world’s largest lithium producing countries.

Australia and Chile: Dominating Global Lithium Supply

Australia and Chile stand out as the top producers of lithium, accounting for almost 77% of the global production in 2022.

RankCountryMine production 2022E (tonnes)Share (%)
1🇦🇺 Australia61,00046.9%
2🇨🇱 Chile39,00030.0%
3🇨🇳 China19,00014.6%
4🇦🇷 Argentina6,2004.8%
5🇧🇷 Brazil2,2001.7%
6🇿🇼 Zimbabwe8000.6%
7🇵🇹 Portugal6000.5%
8🇨🇦 Canada5000.4%
🌎 Other countries*7000.5%
🌐 World Total130,000100.0%

*U.S. production data was withheld to avoid disclosing proprietary company data

Australia, the world’s leading producer, extracts lithium directly from hard rock mines, specifically the mineral spodumene.

Chile, along with Argentina, China, and other top producers, extracts lithium from brine.

Hard rock provides greater flexibility as lithium hosted in spodumene can be processed into either lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate. It also offers faster processing and higher quality as spodumene typically contains higher lithium content.

Extracting lithium from brine, on the other hand, offers the advantage of lower production costs and a smaller impact on the environment. The following visual from Benchmark Minerals helps break down the carbon impact of different types of lithium extraction.

Hard rock lithium sources are three time as carbon intensive as brine

With that said, brine extraction can also face challenges related to water availability and environmental impacts on local ecosystems.

Historical Shifts in the Lithium Supply Chain

In the 1990s, the United States held the title of the largest lithium producer, producing over one-third of the global production in 1995.

However, Chile eventually overtook the U.S., experiencing a production boom in the Salar de Atacama, one of the world’s richest lithium brine deposits. Since then, Australia’s lithium production has also skyrocketed, now accounting for 47% of the world’s lithium production.

China, the world’s third-largest producer, not only focuses on developing domestic mines but has also strategically acquired approximately $5.6 billion worth of lithium assets in countries like Chile, Canada, and Australia over the past decade.

Furthermore, China currently hosts nearly 60% of the world’s lithium refining capacity for batteries, underlining its dominant position in the lithium supply chain.

Meeting Lithium Demand: The Need for New Production

As the world increases its production of batteries and electric vehicles, the demand for lithium is projected to soar.

In 2021, global lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) production sat at 540,000 tonnes.

By 2025, demand is expected to reach 1.5 million tonnes of LCE. By 2030, this number is estimated to exceed 3 million tonnes.

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Strategic Metals

Ranked: The World’s Top Cobalt Producing Countries

Cobalt, an essential component for certain types of EV batteries, has seen a significant shift in its global production landscape.

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Ranked: The World’s Top Cobalt Producing Countries

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on real assets and resource megatrends each week.

Cobalt, an essential component of key chemistries of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in EVs, has seen a significant shift in its global production landscape.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has long been the world’s largest cobalt producer, accounting for 73% of global output in 2022.

However, according to the Cobalt Institute, the DRC’s dominance is projected to decrease to 57% by 2030 as Indonesia ramps up its cobalt production as a byproduct from its rapidly expanding nickel industry.

Indonesia Became Second Largest Cobalt Producer in 2022

Indonesia accounts for nearly 5% of global cobalt production today, surpassing established producers like Australia and the Philippines.

In 2022, Indonesia’s cobalt production surged to almost 9,500 tonnes from 2,700 tonnes in 2021, with the potential to increase production by tenfold by 2030.

Country 2022 Production (tonnes) % of Total Production
🇨🇩 DRC144,93673.3%
🇮🇩 Indonesia 9,4544.8%
🇦🇺 Australia 7,0003.5%
🇵🇭 Philippines 5,4002.7%
🇨🇺 Cuba 5,3312.7%
🇷🇺 Russia 3,5001.8%
🇲🇬 Madagascar3,5001.8%
🇨🇦 Canada3,1001.6%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea 3,0601.5%
🇹🇷 Türkiye2,3001.2%
🌐 Other10,2105.2%
Total197,791100.0%

Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

In total, global cobalt production reached 197,791 tonnes, with the DRC contributing just under 145,000 tonnes of that mix.

The EV industry is the largest consumer of cobalt, accounting for approximately 40% of total demand. The exponential growth of the EV sector is expected to drive a doubling of global cobalt demand by 2030.

Share of cobalt demand by sector

While the shift in cobalt production is notable, it is not without challenges. Plummeting cobalt prices, which fell almost 30% this year to $13.90 a pound, have severely impacted the DRC.

Furthermore, the longer-term prospects of cobalt could face hurdles due to efforts to reduce its use in batteries, partly driven by human rights concerns associated with artisanal cobalt mining in the DRC and related child labor and human rights abuses.

In a 2021 ruling by a federal court in Washington, Google parent Alphabet, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla were relieved from a class action suit claiming their responsibility for alleged child labor in Congolese cobalt mines.

The Future of Cobalt

Despite ongoing efforts to substitute cobalt in battery applications, cobalt is expected to remain a vital raw material for the entire battery supply chain in the near future.

The demand for cobalt is forecasted to more than double by 2030 to 388,000 tonnes.

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