Lithium - Statistics & Facts

Lithium is a silver-white colored soft metal that belongs to the alkali metal group. It is the lightest metal and the least dense solid (at room temperature) element. Highly flammable and reactive, it is usually stored in mineral oil to preserve it from corrosion and tarnish. Due to its high reactivity, lithium does not occur in its elemental form; rather, it occurs naturally as part of chemical compounds. Commercial production consists of isolating lithium through electrolysis from a mixture of potassium chloride and lithium chloride. The majority of lithium is mined in South America, followed by Australia and China. It is often found in silicate minerals.

Lithium has several uses, including in lithium-ion batteries, which accounted for more than half of its consumption worldwide in 2016, and its use for this application continues to grow. Other uses include lubricating greases, glass and ceramics, metallurgy, nuclear fusion applications, among others. Additionally, lithium has medical applications in the form of lithium carbonate, which is used in medication for bipolar disorder as a mood stabilizer.

There are five main lithium producing companies in the world. The United States-based Albemarle (which acquired Rockwood Lithium in 2015) and the Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM) are the two leading lithium producers in the world: Albemarle had a 29 percent lithium market share based on sales of lithium chemicals stated in lithium carbonate equivalents (LCEs) in 2017, while SQM had a 23 percent market share that year.

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