Lithium is a soft metal that reacts immediately with water and air, it also has the highest electrochemical potential of all metals. These properties provide very high energy and power densities for long useful life in small and comparatively lightweight packages, which is driving growth in demand.
Lithium can be processed to form a variety of chemicals, including lithium carbonate, lithium bromide, lithium chloride, butyl lithium and lithium hydroxide. The most important use of lithium is in rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles, energy grid storage, mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and other small electronic devices. Lithium is also used in some non-rechargeable batteries.
Lithium is also used in combination with aluminium and magnesium to form strong and light weight alloys. It is used to produce optics, glassware and ceramics. Lithium chloride is one of the most hygroscopic materials known and is used in air conditioning and industrial drying systems. Lithium stearate is used as an all-purpose and high-temperature lubricant.
Lithium containing products are derived from two resource types:
Hard rock mines
Australia has the world’s largest hard-rock mine Greenbushes, located in Western Australia as well as the newly re-opened Mt Cattlin mine with a 17-year mine life expected. Currently most of the world’s lithium brine production comes from the salt lakes, or salars, of Chile and Argentina.