A recent report from Swiss banking firm UBS AG states that China’s relentless drive to boost its lithium extraction activities could push it to be the largest supplier of the processed middle within the next two years, essentially becoming responsible for almost one-third of the total global supply.
Based on its findings, UBS expects Chinese-operated mining facilities across the globe to increase their total output from 194,000 tons last year to around 705,000 tons by 2025. Should this occur, China would effectively hold around 32% of the entire global supply.
Interestingly, China’s output would also include the extraction of lithium from lepidolite. While lepidolite is a natural source of lithium, any material processed from it is of inferior quality compared to that drawn from spodumene pegmatite. Nevertheless, lithium processed from lepidolite is expected to account for 280,000 tons of China’s total output in the next couple of years.
Indeed, lepidolite-derived lithium may be considered inferior, but Chinese authorities still see it as a valuable resource. As such, the government is actively curbing unlicensed lepidolite expansion, particularly in the mining region of Jiangxi.
Racing for Dominance
At present, nations are scrambling to secure substantial and sustainable supplies of lithium not only to meet their individual carbon-neutrality goals and finally wean their economies off dependence on fossil fuels, but also to reap the economic benefits of having their own reserves of the valuable mineral.
However, a recent announcement from the Iranian government may change the game, as the country’s Ministry of Mining, Industry, and Trade claims that there is a massive cache of lithium in Hamadan, a province in the western part of Iran.