Lithium is a crucial component in the batteries that power the electric vehicles the world needs to accelerate the green energy transition. Lithium prices were white hot late last year, peaking in December at around $70,000 a tonne, but discounts offered by Chinese battery giant CATL to automakers contributed to a price drop earlier this year.
In the long term, McKinsey Battery Insights predicts that the entire lithium-ion battery chain, from mining through recycling, could grow by over 30% annually to 2030, reaching a value of more than $400 billion and a market size of 4.7 TWh.
In a spotlight on the world’s top producing lithium mines — covering a significant amount of global lithium production — Mining Intelligence data provides a ranking of the biggest operations, based on lithium in concentrate produced in 2022 and measured in kilotonnes.
In first place is Albemarle’s Greenbushes lithium mine in Australia, which produced 37.5 kilotonnes of lithium in 2022. Former JV partner Tianqi Lithium invested $382 million to increase production in 2018, but Albemarle took full control in 2020 as Tianqi sold assets to pay down debts.
In second place is SQM’s operation at the Salar de Atacama – the largest salt flat in Chile. SQM produced 29.5 kilotonnes of lithium last year, as it worked on a project to cut its use of freshwater and brine from the Atacama Desert to mitigate the overall impact of its lithium operations in one of the driest places in the world.
Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora mine in Australia is in third place with 13.1 kilotonnes lithium produced. Last year, Pilbara invested $205 million to increase output at Pilgangoora.
Fourth place goes to Albemarle’s operations, extracting brine at a different portion of the massive Salar de Atacama in Chile, producing 10 kilotonnes of lithium in 2022.
Gannfeng Lithium and Mineral Resources’ Mt Marion mine in Australia is in fifth place with 9.4 kilotonnes of lithium produced.
Albemarle and Mineral Resources’ jointly owned Wodgina mine in Australia is in sixth place with 4.9 kilotonnes produced. The companies pulled off a speedy restart of operations at Wodgina last year after they were halted in late 2019 because of then-weak markets.
Livent Corp’s operations at the Salar de Hombre Muerto in Argentina take seventh place with 3.2 kilotonnes produced. Last year, General Motors prepaid the company $198 million for a guaranteed six-year supply of lithium.
In eighth place is Allkem’s Mt. Cattlin mine in Australia with 2.7 kilotonnes of lithium produced in 2022.
The ninth spot on our list also goes to Allkem for 2.6 kilotonnes of lithium produced at its operations at the Salar de Olaroz in Argentina.
Rounding out the list is Albemarle’s Silver Peak mine in Nevada, US with 2.0 kilotonnes produced. In 2021, the world’s largest lithium producer said it planned to invest $30 million to $50 million to double production at Silver Peak by 2025, making full use of its brine water rights.
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