Un cálculo simple nos lleva a una clara conclusión: con las reservas conocidas de litio, se pueden fabricar unos 2.500 millones de vehículos eléctricos, cuatro veces más que todo el parque mundial de vehículos.
Dado que las baterías se reciclarán, como ya sucede con más del 90% de las baterías de plomo de los automóviles, podemos afirmar que el litio, con todos los problemas, no será un factor limitante en la electrificación del transporte.
Además existen otras alternativas, como las baterías ZEBRA o las de zinc-aire, o las que puedan obtenerse a partir de la nanotecnología. En baterías aún queda mucho por investigar.
En 2008 se extrajeron 95.000 toneladas de litio, el doble que hace una década. El consumo de litio, según el United States Geological Survey, se reparte entre baterías (25%), cerámica y vidrio (18%), lubricantes (12%), fármacos y polímeros (7%), aire acondicionado (6%), producción de aluminio primario (4%), industria química (3%), y el 25% en otras aplicaciones.
El mayor productor es la Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. El precio del carbonato de litio en marzo de 2009 asciende a 6.613 dólares la tonelada. En una batería el litio sólo representa el 3% del coste de producción, por lo que un aumento del precio no tendrá grandes repercusiones.
Según un estudio de R. Keith Evans, de marzo de 2008 titulado “Lithium Abundance – World Lithium Reserves”, hay 28,4 millones de toneladas de litio en las reservas ya conocidas. La entrada de la edición en inglés de Wikipedia eleva las reservas a 30 millones de toneladas.
Incluso los estudios más pesimistas, como el trabajo de William Tahil de 2006 de Meridian International Resource titulado “The Trouble With Lithium”, sitúa las reservas en 13,4 millones de toneladas de litio.
La electrificación del transporte deberá afrontar muchos problemas, pero no es probable que las reservas de litio sean un factor determinante. Las reservas aumentarán, hay otras alternativas y queda mucho por investigar.
El otro factor limitante es la electricidad, pero igualmente podemos afirmar que hay recursos eólicos más que suficientes para cubrir todas las necesidades mundiales de electricidad, incluido el transporte. El potencial eólico terrestre técnicamente aprovechable, excluyendo las zonas con alto valor ambiental y la eólica marina, supera los 55.000 TWh. El consumo actual asciende a unos 15.000 TWh.
Hay, eso sí, un debate importante, y también mucha ignorancia. En las referencias que siguen están los planteamientos más conocidos y contradictorios.
El litio es un metal con propiedades especiales en la conducción de calor y electricidad. Las mayores y mejores reservas están en los salares de Bolivia, Chile y Argentina. El gobierno boliviano negocia la entrada de capitales y tecnología que le permitan explotar el salar de Uyuni, que cuenta con las mayores reservas conocidas del mundo. El Estado quiere controlar el negocio, mediante una empresa pública que le de el valor añadido.
Chile, según el Servicio Geológico de Estados Unidos (USGS), tiene unos 3 millones de toneladas de litio, sobre todo en las salmueras del Salar de Atacama. Bolivia cuenta con más de 5 millones, según el USGS.
La chilena SQM, empresa que acapara el 30% del mercado mundial de litio, sitúa en 18 millones las reservas de Chile en carbonato de litio (equivalentes a los 3 millones de litio puro de que habla el USGS). Hay quién asegura que podría haber hasta 90 millones de toneladas en Bolivia.
“En el tema de las reservas hay mucha especulación”, dice Roberto Mallea, especialista del Centro de Investigación Minera y Metalúrgica, en Santiago. Lo que sí es cierto, dice, es que en Argentina hay muchos salares y no se conoce su potencial, debido a las pocas exploraciones. “Hay algunos antecedentes que hablan de reservas de 800 mil toneladas en el país”, dice Mallea. “Pero eso es de un salar. Y entre Salta y Jujuy debe haber, a lo menos 10 ó 15 salares de ese tamaño”.
Lithium Abundance – World Lithium Reserve
A report on the world’s Lithium resources and reserves by R. Keith Evans. For a DOC/PDF version of this report, please contact the author.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
In 1976 a National Research Council Panel estimated that Western World lithium reserves and resources totaled 10.6 million tonnes as elemental lithium.
Subsequent discoveries, particularly in brines in the southern Andes and the plateaus of western China and Tibet have increased the tonnages significantly. Geothermal brines and lithium bearing clays add to the total.
This current estimate totals 28.4 million tonnes Li equivalent to more than 150.0 million tonnes of lithium carbonate of which nearly 14.0 million tonnes lithium (about 74.0 million tonnes of carbonate) are at active or proposed operations.
This can be compared with current demand for lithium chemicals which approximates to 84,000 tonnes as lithium carbonate equivalents (16,000 tonnes Li).
Concerns regarding lithium availability for hybrid or electric vehicle batteries or other foreseeable applications are unfounded.
In 1975 the United States Geological Survey convened a symposium in Golden, Colorado, on lithium demand and resources prompted by the premise that lithium resources would be inadequate to meet future demand in fusion power generation (expected from the Year 2000 onward!) and in load leveling storage batteries. Demand estimates were astronomic and in the light of these projections the availability of adequate reserves was seriously questioned. In the introduction to the symposium reference was made to the “gravity” of the impending shortage of lithium. (Anon 1976)
Fortunately, shortly afterwards, at the request of the United States Energy Research and Development Administration, the National Academy of Sciences and Engineering formed a National Research Council Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems (CONEAS) to report on the role of nuclear power in the context of alternative energy systems in the time period 1985 to 2010. CONEAS was organized into four main panels and twenty-six sub panels and the Lithium Sub Panel was one of these asked to report on raw material availability.
This group was chaired by Dr. Thomas Kesler, formerly with the USGS and the leading authority on the North Carolina tin-spodumene belt the, then, dominant source of lithium, Dr. James Vine of the USGS and the head of its Lithium Resource Appraisal Group, Dr. Ihor Kunasz of the Foote Mineral Company and the writer representing Lithium Corporation of America. The panel reported in 1976 (Evans, 1978) and some of the figures used in this current paper are based on that report.
The tonnage estimated in the panel report of 10.65 million tonnes of Li was in respect of the Western World as little data were available in respect of Russia and China.
In 1985, fresh concerns about lithium availability arose from a different group of researchers and aluminium producers when it seemed a possibility that lithium-aluminium alloys for aircraft would create a major demand and the writer produced an updated report based on new discoveries in the preceding ten years (Evans 1986).
Additions to the 1978 paper included the estimated reserves in the Greenbushes spodumene pegmatite in Western Australia, the brines of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the lithium in geothermal brines in Southern California and the lithium contained in hectorite deposits in the Western USA.
Recently, concern has again been expressed about lithium availability (Tahil, 2007) because of the potential very large scale use of lithium carbonate, in particular, in lithium-ion batteries in hybrid and all-electric motor vehicles and this has precipitated the preparation of this report.
Posted by R. Keith Evans at 11:36 PM 0 comments
Actual and potential sources of lithium are from pegmatites, continental brines, geothermal brines, oilfield brines and the clay mineral hectorite.
PEGMATITES – are course grained igneous rocks formed by the crystallization of post magmatic fluids. They occur in close proximity to large magmatic intrusions. Lithium containing pegmatites are relatively rare and are most frequently associated with tin and tantalite. Many of the lithium ‘discoveries’ resulted from the exploration for these associated minerals.
The principal lithium pegmatite minerals are spodumene, petalite (both lithium-aluminium silicates) and lepidolite (a lithium mica) which normally contains minor quantities of cesium, rubidium and fluorine. All have been used directly in the glass and ceramic industries provided the iron content is low and all have been used as the feedstock for the production of lithium chemicals. Spodumene, as a concentrate, is still used in China for lithium chemical production and new production is planned in Europe and Australia.
CONTINENTAL BRINES – these brines with the lithium derived mainly from the leaching of volcanic rocks vary greatly in lithium content largely as a result of the extent to which they have been subject to solar evaporation. They range from between 30 to 60 ppm in the Great Salt Lake, Utah, where the evaporation rates are modest and dilution is constant due to the high volume of fresh water inflow, through the subsurface brines in Searles Lake California (a former location of lithium production) and Silver Peak, Nevada (a current source) to the high altitude salars in Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Tibet and China where lithium concentrations can be very high.
GEOTHERMAL BRINES – the author is not aware of any publications that provide a listing of the lithium content of all known geothermal brines. Small quantities are contained in brines at Wairakei, New Zealand (13ppm Li) at the Reykanes Field (8ppm) and other areas in Iceland and at El Tatio in Chile (47ppm). The most attractive known occurrences are in the the Brawley area south of the Salton Sea in Southern California.
OILFIELD BRINES – large tonnages of lithium are contained in oil field brines in North Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, east Texas and Arkansas where brines grading up to 700mg/lt are known to exist. Other lithium brines exist in the Paradox Basin, Utah and but the author is unaware of any global review of the potential.
HECTORITE CLAYS – hectorite is a magnesium lithium smectite and the clay is found in a number of areas in the western United States. The largest known deposit is associated with the volcanic rocks of the McDermitt caldera that straddles the Nevada/Oregon border where it occurs in a series of elongate lenses. Current drilling is confirming earlier work that indicated very large tonnages of contained lithium.
Posted by R. Keith Evans at 11:34 PM 0 comments
MAJOR INDUSTRY CHANGES
At the time of the National Research Council report the production of lithium chemicals was a duopoly in the Western world and demand at that time approximated to 3,200 tonnes/year of Li. Little was known about Russian and Chinese production and reserves.
The two main producers were Lithium Corporation of America (LCA) and the Foote Mineral Company. Both processed spodumene concentrates from their mines near Bessemer City and Kings Mountain, North Carolina.
In 1975 Foote, then owned by Cyprus Minerals, signed an agreement with CORFO, a Chilean Government agency and owner of the mineral claims covering the nucleus of the Salar de Atacama to evaluate the brine deposit there. At the end of the evaluation the company was allowed to lease a percentage of the claims. Sociedad Chileno de Litio was formed and production commenced in 1984. Foote/Cyprus was subsequently purchased by Chemetall and later by Rockwood Holdings.
In 1980, Amax Exploration visited the Salar as part of a global search for potash but on discovering that the Foote agreement granted them exclusive rights for lithium recovery for only eight years pressed for the right to co-produce lithium. In 1984 CORFO invited bids for the development of much of the remainder of the Salar’s nucleus. Amax were successful in bidding against LCA (which, by then had been purchased by FMC Corp.) but Amax, following the completion of an evaluation programme, decided to dispose of its interest and this was acquired by Socieded Quimica y Minera (SQM) a major producer of iodine and sodium nitrate. SQM came into production at the Salar in 1997. The production duopoly was now broken and to acquire market share and with its low costs SQM substantially reduced the price of lithium carbonate.
Having lost the bid in Chile, FMC turned its attention to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia but failed in its negotiations with the Government there but successfully negotiated with the Argentinian authorities for rights to the Salar de Hombre Muerto. Although a much smaller salar the brine is an extremely ‘clean’ one and produced a quality of lithium chloride unavailable elsewhere. However, both capital and operating costs were much greater than anticipated and carbonate production was suspended for several years. FMC became reliant upon SQM for carbonate.
The North Carolina pegmatite mines closed with the development of the lower cost reserves in Chile and Argentina.
Another producer Admiralty Resources, plans to come on stream in 2008 from shallow brines at the Salar de Rincon in Argentina.
In the early 2000’s after the evaluation of the very large brine deposits in the Qaidam Basin in Northwest China, a technical breakthrough was achieved in the processing of brines with a high magnesium content. Subsequently, major discoveries were made on the Tibet Plateau. Prior to the brine developments China produced lithium chemicals from domestic pegmatite sources and imported spodumene concentrates.
Since the National Research Council report other low iron sources of lithium ore for direct usage have been developed so now there are three – Bikita in Zimbabwe, Bernic Lake in Canada and Greenbushes in Australia. The last of these attempted to enter the chemical business but failed. Direct usage ores have some significance in chemical demand in that they compete with carbonate in certain applications.
Posted by R. Keith Evans at 11:33 PM 0 comments
PRODUCTION COST COMPONENTS
In the case of production from pegmatites, assuming the most common acid leach process is used, they comprise mining, beneficiation to a moderate or high grade of concentrate, calcination to produce acid-leachable beta spodumene, reaction with sulphuric acid and the conversion of the lithium sulphate solution with sodium carbonate. The costs of acid, soda ash and energy are a very significant percentage of total costs but they can be partly offset if a market exists for the sodium sulfate by-product.
In the case of hectorite clays, geothermal brines and oilfield brines lithium recovery costs have not been developed but work is current on the first two of these potential sources.
In the case of continental brines which are the current major source costs, probably, vary greatly. As with the case of pegmatites the cost of soda ash to convert lithium chloride to lithium carbonate is very significant. Brine grades vary greatly ranging currently in the Andes, from approximately 0.3% Li at the SQM operation in Chile to 0.062% and 0.034% at the two Argentinian salares of Hombre Muerto and Rincon respectively.
The most deleterious element in the brine is magnesium and the magnesium/lithium ratio is relatively low at the Salar de Atacama, very low at the Salar de Hombre Muerto and high at the Salar de Rincon. The largest of the Chinese brine deposits also has a very high ratio and these brines need more complex processing.
The other important factor in the brine chemistry is the presence or not of other recoverable products.
In Chile, Rockwood Holdings, now the owner of Chemetall who purchased Foote/Cyprus recover moderate tonnages of potassium chloride as a co-product at their operation and SQM recover much larger tonnages together with potassium sulphate and boric acid. Most of SQM’s potassium chloride is converted to much higher value potassium nitrate using nitrates from company owned deposits located between the salares and the Pacific coast.
At the Salar de Rincon potash recovery is planned and most of the Chinese salars contain economic concentrations of potassium and boron.
Another factor affecting capital costs apart from brine grade is the net evaporation rate which determines the area of the evaporation ponds necessary to increase the grade of the plant feed. These are a major capital cost but not a factor at the FMC operation where the lithium chloride is recovered directly from the in situ brine.
In the case of the one geothermal source discussed later the brine is rich in zinc a co-product as well as lithium and is a major producer of electric power but, as is with the case of oil field brines and hectorites, lithium recovery costs have not been determined.
A final cost factor is location. Some deposits are extremely remote.
COUNTRY REVIEW – United States of America
The two North Carolina operations closed with the development of lower cost sources in Chile but could, should a massive demand materialize and prices rise as a result, be reactivated.
Based on figures used in the Lithium Panel report and later reserve data it is estimated, very approximately, that the FMC and former Foote operations contained reserves of 80,000 and 150,000 tonnes Li respectively at the time both operations were closed.
The Panel, based principally on Kesler’s very extensive work along the 48km long belt estimated a potential recoverable resource down to a depth of 1,500 metres of 375 million tonnes of ore at a grade typical of the area thus containing 2.6 million tonnes Li.
Other known pegmatite sources are small.
The Panel report listed tonnages for three brines – at Searles Lake, California, at Silver Peak, Nevada and the Great Salt Lake, Utah.
At Searles Lake lithium was recovered as a by-product from the commercial production of soda ash, potash and borax. The lithium was essentially a contaminant and with a process modification production ceased in 1978. It is highly improbable that lithium recovery will take place in the future. Silver Peak commenced production in the 1960’s pumping brines varying from 100 to 300 ppm Li. It continues to operate and the remaining economic reserves are estimated at 40,000 tonnes Li.
In the Great Salt Lake the overall tonnage of contained lithium approximates to 520,000 tonnes but the grade is very much lower than other brines considered as potential reserves in this report.
At the Salton Sea KGRA in southern California a brine with very high concentrations of potash, lithium, boron, zinc and lead is used to produce 288 megawatts of electric power.
A 30,000 tpa high grade zinc plant based on the brine has experienced technical problems but the brine also grades about 200 ppm Li and the throughput contains approximately 16,000 tpa Li. (William Bourcier, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, personal communication). Earlier (Duyvestein, 1992) calculated a similar figure of approximately 11,900 short tons of carbonate per 50 MW of capacity.
To put a reserve tonnage to the annual rate a 20 year life is assumed to give a figure of 316,000 tonnes Li.
There are other sites in the area with high lithium values.
Further north at the Mammoth Lakes geothermal field with a much lower lithium concentration, Lawrence Livermore Labs have a current project aimed at silica recovery which would be a first step in recovering lithium from brines of this nature
Collins (1978) estimated a possible reserve of 0.75 million tonnes of Li in one tenth of the area underlain by the Smackover Formation which extends through North Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, east Texas and Arkansas. Other lithium-containing brines exist in the Paradox Basin, Utah.
At the McDermitt Caldera on the Oregon/Nevada border, Western Uranium Corporation are re-examining seven lenses of hectorite clay originally drilled by Chevron Resources.
Drilling at the most southerly site, the PCD lens, is confirming the tonnage and grade indicated by Chevron. This lens has a length of about 2 kms, a width of approximately one kilometer and a thickness of 100 metres under shallow overburden. Higher grade portions of the deposit grade over 0.35% Li and the cut off used in the reserve calculation is 0.275% Li.
Chevron reported that the total resource contained 23.9 billion lbs of carbonate – 2 million tonnes of Li and test work on recovery methods is currently being undertaken.
Hectorites are known to occur elsewhere in the western United States but no reserve data exist.
Lithium Supply: Enough to Cover Demands
A conference entitled “Lithium Supply and Markets” organised by Industrial Minerals magazine was held in Santiago, Chile, in January this year. It was attended by 150 geologists, mining engineers, chemical engineers, producers, would be producers, battery experts and consumers.
I had the pleasure of making the first presentation concerning reserves and resources estimating in situ tonnages of 30.0 million tonnes Li – about 160.0 million tonnes of carbonate-the principal feed chemical for the chemicals used in lithium-ion batteries. My estimate was an update of a National Research Council report produced in the mid 1970’s and updated to include more recent discoveries using the tonnages estimated by the companies involved in evaluating the targets.
As with the NRC report, a fairly wide definition of reserves and resources was adopted along the lines of the statement made by Donella Meadows in 1972. “Reserve is a concept related to the amount of material that has been discovered or inferred to exist and that can be used given reasonable assumptions about technology and price”.
Definitions used by the USGS are tighter than this, hence lower tonnage estimates from that source. When the NRC team was chosen, they were asked to produce a report on resources which, in the opinion of the team, stood a reasonable chance of being developed should a major demand develop. At the time, the concern was in respect of lithium availability for fusion reactors. The tonnage estimated by the panel which included one current and one former USGS employee, was considerably higher than the official estimate at that time.
Other estimates quoted in Santiago were, from Chemetall and FMC for 28.0 million tonnes Li and 35.7 million tonnes Li from SQM. In my address I also quoted an estimate by Laksic and Tilton (University of Chile and Colorado School of Mines respectively) of 35.0 million tonnes.
In a summary of the conference proceedings by the Chairman, Gerry Clark, he wrote, “What speakers in the Santiago event demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt is that lithium resources are large enough to cover any rationally conceivable demand”.
Before leaving the subject of resources and reserves I would like to make the comment that moving from one category to the other is an expensive exercise. As an example, the hectorite deposit on the Nevada/Oregon border comprises 5 lenses. When drilled years ago Chevron, the former owners, came up with a tentative estimate of 2.3 million tonnes Li.
As part of its Feasibility study, Western Mining has redrilled one of the lenses in a tight pattern to indicate a lithium tonnage of 162,000 tonnes – within 10% of the Chevron figure for that lens. Do they feel any compulsion to undertake detailed drilling at the other lenses? As they are a relatively small company I doubt they can justify the expense so the other 2.0 million tonnes will remain a resource. The drilled lens contains 800,000 tonnes of carbonate – more than sufficient for a lengthy period.
In Santiago the issue of current chemical production capacity was discussed which is estimated at 115,000 tpa of lithium carbonate equivalents compared with current demand of approximately 95,000 tpa.
Of greatest interest were projections of future demand where the numbers vary greatly because of the varying assumptions regarding total vehicle numbers, the percentage penetration of the total market, the percentage that are lithium-ion powered and the vehicle type.
All three producers used the same figure of 0.6 kg carbonate per 1kW/h of battery capacity with the type, battery capacity and carbonate demand tabulated below.
Vehicle Type…..Battery Capacity…..LCE Demand
Mild HEV ……………2 KW/H ………………….1.2 kg
PHEV ………………..12 …………………………….7.2
EV ……………………..25 …………………………….15
SQM in its estimate for 2020 looked at two scenarios assuming 9% and 20% electric vehicles in the fleet with 60% and 80% being powered with Li-ion. The annual carbonate demand ranged from 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes in the conservative case 55,000 to 65,000 tonnes in the optimistic case.
Unlike others making estimates, SQM also looked at 2030 with 15% and 25% electric vehicles in the fleet and 75% and 90% being Li-ion powered resulting in a demand of 65,000 to 75,000 in the conservative case and 135,000 to 145,000 in the optimistic case.
Chemetall also tabulated a range of scenarios with 2020 demand for vehicles from a low 5,000 to 60,500 tonnes of carbonate demand.
FMC estimated the market penetration of HEV’s at 20-30%, PHEV’s at 2-5% and EV’s at 1-3% in 2020 resulting in a carbonate demand of 70,000 tpa.
TRU Group presented a study made on behalf of Mitsubishi Corporation. They estimated the production of battery equipped cars at approximately 5 million/year by 2020. They also estimated that technical issues will be resolved for HEV’s by 2011, for PHEV’s by 2014 and for EV’s by 2016.
Current capacity for chemical production approximates to 115,000 tpa lithium carbonate equivalents. At the conference, Chemetall announced that it would stage expansions in response to market demand which could more than double capacity (to 50,000 and 15,000 tpa carbonate and hydroxide respectively) by 2020 and FMC stated that at current production rates they had reserves to last for 70 years.
SQM pumps sufficient brine to recover approximately 800,000 tpa of potash (potassium chloride and potassium sulfate) together with a modest tonnage of boric acid. From this feed they have the lithium capacity to produce 40,000 tpa carbonate but the lithium in the brine greatly exceeds this and the excess is returned to the salar. The expansion potential is very large. The company claims that the returned brine contains in excess of 200,000 tpa carbonate.
The Chinese plan to expand brine based capacity to 85,000 tonnes by 2010 but it is known that they are having serious problems with the high magnesium/lithium ratios in two of the brine sources.
In addition to current operations there are several projects in the pipeline. Three pegmatite based operations are being evaluated, one each in Australia (Galaxy Resources), Canada (Canadian Lithium) and one in Finland (Keliber Resources) with combined in situ reserves of 124,000 tonnes Li.
In Argentina the Salar de Rincon project is targeted to produce 17,000 tpa carbonate and the Salar de Olaroz, further north, is being evaluated by Orocobre.
In Bolivia, the Salar de Uyuni, is receiving massive attention by the press with claims that “it is the Saudi Arabia of lithium” also “it has nearly 50% of the world’s reserves” and “it is the most beautiful resource on the planet”. It is undoubtedly large – Ballivian and Risacher estimated 5.5 million tonnes Li but are only one sixth of the world’s resources. However, it has problems with a low lithium concentration and a high Mg/Li ratio which will complicate and increase the cost of processing. The richest part of the reserve is in an area where the aquifer is very thin and the whole salar floods seasonally – diluting grade and complicating the construction of the very large area of solar evaporation ponds that will be required.
Mention has been made previously of Western Lithium’s hectorite deposits in the western United States. The resource contains in excess of 2.0 million tonnes Li. Costs are not known yet and this also applies to Simbol Mining’s proposal to recover lithium from the rich geothermal brines in the Salton Sea area of Southern California.
RTZ’s jadarite deposit in Serbia appears to be extremely attractive. This unique mineral occurs in 3 stacked layers. Reserves were disclosed for one of them in Santiago – 0.95 million tonnes Li. If mined out over a period of 20 years it would produce 60,000 tpa carbonate with the co-production of 300,000 tpa boric acid. The geological evidence suggests that this deposit could contain double the currently stated reserves.
Claims have been made that if (ever) the cheap brine sources became exhausted or that demand grows to such an extent that the current producers cannot meet demand – citing pegmatite costs as an example, costs and prices would increase considerably.
In fact a high percentage of current Chinese production is from spodumene and two years ago SQM estimated production costs at between $1.80 to $2.20/lb . A former North Carolina producer recently gave a ball-park estimate of $2.50-$3.00/lb for production from the former operations there.
In Santiago, Chemetall did the maths as far as batteries are concerned. Assuming a battery cost of 500 Euros per kW/h and a carbonate cost of 6 Euro/kilo the carbonate cost is less than 1% of the total. Clearly, higher costs are palatable in this application.
Finally, in situ resources total approximately 30.0 million tonnes and a recovery of 50% seems probable. As a result of an increase in exploration activity more resources will be discovered and partly explored pegmatites will be drilled at depth and along unexplored strike. An example is the Tallison pegmatite in Western Australia where increased reserves were announced in Santiago – from 223,000 tonnes Li in my estimate to 1.5 million tonnes.
There are a large number of additional Salares in the Andean altiplano now receiving the attention of geologists and if recovery from hectorites proves to be viable there are numerous other occurrences reported upon by the USGS.
Returning to the demand side, each million tonnes of recovered elemental lithium or 5.6 billion kilos of carbonate will be sufficient for 560 million vehicles requiring a 10 kW/h battery. Most batteries will require much less.