Lithium is a soft, silvery-white metal. Lithium is not found free in nature but always as compounds in minerals. The main sources for lithium minerals are the so called hard rock deposits (like Keliber’s lithium deposits) or salt lake deposits (brines).
Lithium and lithium compounds are used widely, for example in the glass and ceramics industry as well as the medical industry. The battery industry became the most significant user of lithium during the 2010s. The demand for rechargeable batteries has grown significantly as various portable devices, such as smart phones, tablets, laptops and wireless tools, have become common.
Lithium use has increased significantly particularly in the electric vehicle market. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are light, and they weigh approximately 75% less than similar lead-acid batteries, which makes a lithium-ion battery an excellent choice for electric cars or bikes.
The growing demand for hybrids, rechargeable hybrids and electric vehicles strongly increases the demand for lithium. In 2019, overall lithium demand amounted to over 270,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). Lithium demand is predicted to grow to 900,000 LCE tonnes by 2027, and to almost 2.8 million LCE tonnes by 2040.
Keliber’s end product, battery-grade lithium hydroxide, is predicted to become the most used and sought-after lithium chemical after the mid 2020s.