There could be a new player in the global race for lithium – and, surprisingly, it’s in the heart of the Middle East.
Officials from Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Trade made an announcement on state television on March 4th that lithium has been found in Hamedan, a province in the mountainous western region of the country.
According to Mohammad Hadi Ahmadi, an official with the Ministry, initial estimates show that the deposit may hold up to 8.5 million tons of lithium. Should this be confirmed, it would make the Hamedan deposit the second-largest of its kind in the world after the one in Salar de Atacama, Chile.
An Economic Lifeline for a Beleaguered Nation
The discovery of such a massive lithium deposit at a time when nations are scrambling to secure their stake in the increasingly vital lithium industry is seen as a potential shot in the arm for Iran whose economy has been severely battered by sanctions imposed by other countries.
Despite the fact that Iran remains a leading producer of crude oil and natural gas, global embargoes have drastically reduced its ability to bring in revenues and foreign currency to relieve its ailing economy.
Its continued support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as its ongoing oppression of women and the violent manner by which anti-government protesters have been dealt with, however, may greatly reduce its ability to trade with a wider swathe of countries should it decide to push through with mining the Hamedan site.
A Growing Demand for White Gold
Dubbed by industry professionals as “white gold” due to the relatively small global supply and the challenges involved in mining and refining it, lithium has become a sought-after raw material by the booming electric vehicle market and the consumer electronics industry as it is one of the key components for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries.
Over the past year, the price of lithium has risen to astronomic heights as countries try to hit their net-zero targets by shifting to cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy. However, the race to secure ample amounts of lithium for the industrial sector has been hampered over the past few years due to supply chain issues and inflation.
Recent developments show that the price of lithium has gradually begun to drop thanks to a recent decrease in EV sales as well as much slower activity in China which remains the fastest-growing market. Likewise, the possibility of an even greater supply of lithium becoming more available via Hamedan and similar sites may cause the price to go even lower.