Lithium is in hot demand due to rapidly growing production of electric vehicles that use lithium-ion batteries, but there is a global supply shortage of the metal, with western countries racing to bring on new mines to compete with China.
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The Serbian government on Thursday cancelled licenses for a major lithium project owned by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Plc, which industry experts said is likely to prolong the supply shortage to mid-decade.
Following are some key facts on major mines and lithium supply based on data from Australia's Department of Industry,the U.S. Geological Survey, company reports and a Credit Suissereport.
Lithium is currently produced from hard rock or brine mines. Australia is the world's biggest supplier, with production from hard rock mines. Argentina, Chile and China is mainly producing it from salt lakes.
Total global production, measured as lithium carbonate equivalent, was forecast in December at 485,000 tonnes in 2021,growing to 615,000 tonnes in 2022 and 821,000 tonnes in 2023,according to Australia's Department of Industry.
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Credit Suisse analysts are more conservative, seeing 2022output at 588,000 tonnes, and 2023 at 736,000 tonnes, and forecast demand outpacing supply growth, with demand at 689,000 tonnes in 2022 and 902,000 tonnes in 2023, with about two-thirds of that for electric vehicle batteries.
Lithium carbonate prices have rocketed to record highs over the past year due to strong demand from Chinese battery makers.
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Global top 10 producer Allkem said on Jan. 18 it expects pricing in the half-year to June to jump to around $20,000 a tonne at point of loading, up about 80% from the half-year to December 2021.