If we look at per capita oil production, it becomes clear why countries like Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia are so rich. However, as is common knowledge, the world is transitioning to an all-electric ecosystem. While the previous century was predominantly oil-based, the 21st century will see exponential growth in electric ecosystem.
To support this ecosystem, the world will need huge quantities of lithium. That’s because lithium is an essential component of battery packs and various other electronic equipment. Just like oil made some countries super rich, it is likely that lithium will determine the fortunes of countries in the future. To get a better idea, here’s a quick look at countries with highest lithium reserves.
Australia – Lithium reserves in Australia are estimated to be around 6.3 million tons. Australia is currently one of the largest producers of lithium. Much of the lithium in Australia comes from Spodumene, a mineral that has lithium as well as aluminum. The Greenbushes lithium mine in Australia is the largest hard-rock lithium mine of its kind in the world. It is an open-pit mine located in Western Australia.
United States – Lithium reserves in United States are estimated to be around 6.8 million tons. However, lithium production in United States is among the lowest in the world. Lithium reserves in US are primarily located in pegmatite, oilfield brines, hectorite, geothermal brines and continental brines. As of now, US mainly relies on lithium imports from Chile and Argentina.
Chile – This South American nation has an estimated 9 million tons of lithium reserves. Chile is one of the largest producers of lithium in the world. One of the key lithium mining sites in the country is Salar de Atacama salt flat. A number of lithium producing companies operate in this area.
Argentina – The second largest lithium reserves in the world are in Argentina. It is estimated to be around 17 million tons. Most of the lithium resources are located in vast salt flats of the country. One of the key lithium mining sites in Argentina is the Salar del Hombre Muerto salt flat.
Bolivia – Lithium reserves in Bolivia are estimated to be around 21 million tons. This is the largest lithium reserves in the world. Bolivia is home to Salar de Uyuni salt flat, the single-biggest lithium resource in the world. It is said that this location is visible from space. However, due to lack of technology and political challenges, actual production of lithium in Bolivia is quite low.
As of now, countries with high lithium reserves are at an advantageous position. However, it is important to know that technology is constantly evolving. Researchers are evaluating a number of other technologies such as aluminum-air battery, hydrogen fuel cell, silicon electrolyte batteries and zinc-manganese oxide batteries. It is possible that scientists may discover something more affordable and more widely available in the future. This could reduce the dependence on lithium. In the short to medium term though, lithium is likely to dominate.