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Current Affairs

Lithium shortage for manufacturing batteries

Date: 25 January 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The lithium metal is in high demand for vehicle battery manufacturing, causing shortages in world supply.

 

Background

The global net zero carbon goals are driving investments in electric car technology, which is driven by lithium powered batteries.

 

Details

The government of Serbia has cancelled the mining license of Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Plc, which is likely to further exaggerate shortage.

 

Lithium metal

  • Hard rock or brine mines are the two major sources of lithium metal. Australia obtains from hard rock whereas China, Argentina and Chile rely on brine lakes.

  • The global prediction for lithium production in 2021 was 485,000 tonnes, followed by 615,000 tonnes in 2022 and 821,000 tonnes in 2023.

  • About two-thirds of the produced lithium will be used for electric vehicle batteries, which is expected to boom.

 

Price rise

Strong demand from Chinese battery manufacturers has pushed lithium carbonate prices to record highs over the past year.

 

Major producers of lithium

  • Australia

  • Chile

  • China

  • Argentina

  • Bolivia

 

Applications

  • The biggest and most important application is for rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles and digital goods like mobile phones and laptops.

  • The metal is also used in some non-rechargeable batteries for things like heart pacemakers, toys and clocks.

  • It is used as an alloy of aluminium and magnesium to improve their strength and making them lighter. 

  • Lithium and its compounds are used in glass manufacturing, industrial dyes, high-temperature lubricant and for storing hydrogen fuel.

 

Challenges

  • Lithium batteries threaten water bodies and soil as they can be polluters. Without proper planning for their disposal and recycle, lithium could turn into a hazard.

  • Lithium is also a major tool for geopolitical conflict. Countries like China and US could go to any extent to secure lithium sources for future.