Given the mad rush of nations to meet their carbon neutrality goals by the end of the current decade, lithium has become one of the world’s hottest commodities. However, a recent spate of delays with regard to mining permits on top of ongoing staffing issues and still-high inflation may mean that there won’t be enough lithium to go around.
As of Friday, June 23rd, a number of lithium mining and processing firms have warned that global demand for the mineral may overtake supplies by around 500,000 metric tons come the end of the decade. Companies like Albemarle, currently the world’s largest lithium production firm, are growing rapidly, but remain unable to keep up with the ever increasing demand for the mineral.
Other companies like Lake Resources are facing extensive and prolonged delays in their respective lithium initiatives. Just last week, Lake Resources announced that it was pushing back its initial production run in Argentina for three more years, given problems regarding powering the facility and overall logistics.
As company chair Stu Crow explained at the recent Fastmarkets Lithium and Battery Raw Materials Conference held in Las Vegas, it is entirely possible that battery makers won’t have a secure line to lithium feedstock in the years to come.
How Many Players are Currently In the Industry?
As of the end of 2022, around 45 lithium mines were already in operation. An additional eleven hoped to begin operations this year, and another seven are slated to open in 2024.
Experts warn, however, that those numbers will be unable to produce enough battery-grade lithium to satisfy global demand.
Likewise, they see no point in building additional mines if no one is opening support facilities to produce the specific grades or formulations necessary for battery production. This could result in automakers settling for poorer grades of lithium which will, in turn, compromise the performance of EV batteries.