In order to meet growing demand for lithium ore, the global lithium industry will require at least $10–12 billion in investments over the next decade — primarily due to rising demand for plug-in electric vehicles — the Chile-based lithium mining firm SQM has reported.
Relating to those figures, the senior commercial vice president at SQM, Daniel Jimenez, also noted that lithium demand was expected to grow by a further 600,000–800,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent over just the next 10 years or so.
Those comments were made at the recent Metal Bulletin Battery Materials Conference in Shanghai, and represent a substantial increase in (projected) demand.
Reuters provides some further information: “SQM’s projection is based on typical greenfield capital expenditure per tonne of lithium carbonate equivalent, he adds, noting that the industry has historically underestimated lithium demand and over-estimated supply.
“Company currently has annual lithium carbonate production capacity of 48,000 tonnes in Chile, which it will expand to 70,000 tonnes this year and to 100,000 tonnes next year, Jimenez says.”
This news follows on the recent announcement that authorities in Chile have approved $754 million in new lithium mining investments in the country.
While such news does not necessarily mean much on its own, when taken together with the fact that plug-in electric vehicle sales seem to be on a rapid growth trajectory, and that battery-based energy storage products and projects are becoming more and more common, it is worth taking note.
Presumably, we can expect to see further announcements of large-scale investments in the lithium industry before too long.