Abstract: Lithium has been a hot commodity the past couple of years. Lithium demand growth is driven by the rapidly expanding electric-vehicle battery market. The forecast demand has driven a sharp increase in exploration for the two main sources of lithium, continental brines and pegmatites, as well as potential new sources in lacustrine clays.
However, mining and beneficiation of lithium are only the start of the story. The primary products in demand by battery manufacturers are not lithium metal, but high-purity lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide monohydrate. As a result, the upstream end of the lithium-to-vehicle supply chain requires a blend of mining and specialty-chemical approaches. New technologies on the processing side promise to revolutionize the industry by increasing recoveries from lithium brines and reducing environmental impact in the sensitive environments where brine deposits are located.