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Lithium Statistics 2020


Statistical indicators of lithium production and reserves are of undoubted interest, primarily due to the increased demand for lithium in the automotive industry. According to the latest USGS edition for 2020, more than 70% of global lithium consumption is associated with the manufacturing of batteries. However, the slowdown of the global economy due to the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on this industrial sector as well. The USGS estimates that global lithium production in 2020 is down by 5% from the previous year. With total lithium production of 82,000 tons, Australia accounted for almost half. The other big producers are Chile (18,000 tons) and China (14,000 tons).

The USGS figures do not include production in the US and some other countries, but they are quoted in BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2021 and add an additional percentage of about 1.7% to the above mentioned figures. It should be noted that this is the second consecutive year of decline in lithium production. In 2019, it was more than 9%. Against this backdrop, global lithium reserves have increased significantly, amounting to 21 million tons in 2020 compared to 17 million tons in 2019. Chile (9.2 million tons), Australia (4.7 million tons), Argentina (1.9 million tons) and China (1.5 million tons) still have the largest reserves. Total lithium resources in this case reached 86 million tons.

Global lithium production and reserves

Source: USGS

Most lithium extraction processes entail brine mining. Some of the world's largest lithium brine deposits are Salar de Atacama (Chile), Salar de Rincon (Argentina), Qaidam, Zabuye (China). Less common are pegmatite deposits, such as Greenbushes (Australia) and Yuchin (China). Large sedimentary lithium deposits are located in the U.S. (Kings Valley) and Serbia.

BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021 generally agrees with USGS regarding the statistics, however, it cites higher lithium production in Chile and significantly lower global reserves - about 19 million tons. The USGS also mentions that an increasing number of facilities are involved in lithium battery recycling.

Following the decline in lithium production in 2020, the prices of its main products continued to fall. For example, the USGS notes that the price of lithium carbonate in China decreased by more than 12% during 2020, while pure lithium decreased by almost 15%.

The current developments in the global lithium production market have prompted participants in the production chain to pay more attention to improving reliability and supply diversification. However, much more serious changes are expected in the market in the near term. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in the next decade the market for lithium batteries will grow 5-10 times. This is associated with the large-scale production of electric vehicles, the sales volume of which may exceed 50 million units by 2040. Currently, the majority of lithium battery production is concentrated in Asia, primarily in China, where the largest manufacturers, such as CATL and BYD Co Ltd. are located. As noted by the U.S. Department of Energy 42% of cathodes manufacturing is concentrated in China, as well as 65% of anodes production, 65% of electrolytes manufacturing and 43% of separators production. In view of this, the US has proposed a national plan that would provide a serious boost to the industrial production of lithium batteries. Apparently, similar programs will be adopted in other countries, which could have a significant impact on the lithium production market.