End in Sight to Near-Term Lithium Supply Shortages

This article first appeared on the BNEF mobile app and the Bloomberg Terminal.

  • 18-fold jump in lithium demand from batteries from 2016-30
  • Junior miners racing to meet demand, 30 projects in pipeline


Lithium Supply and Demand

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, press releases, Avicenne, USGS, IDTechEX, Deutsche Bank. Note: Production from lithium brine mines is only included in future supply 1 year after mines are commissioned. CE refers to consumer electronics, E-bus refers to electric buses. 

Some 37% of mined lithium is used in lithium-ion batteries. It is the only truly critical material in those batteries and is key to their high energy densities. In the near term, there may be supply shortages of lithium. These are likely to ease during the early 2020s, but supply is likely to be squeezed after 2024 unless more projects are commissioned. Those could include opening up new mining operations, and the expansion of existing operations by building more evaporation pools – in the case of lithium brine projects. Traditionally, lithium mining has been dominated by a few large miners, but the recent boom in demand has led to an upsurge in the number of smaller operators.

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