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Lithium in South America - Statistics and Facts

Lithium, a silvery-white alkali metal discovered over two centuries ago – with usage ranging from glass and ceramics to mood disorder medication – has recently experienced a boom in popularity due to its utilization in ion-lithium batteries, the preferred power source for electric vehicles. As a result, the price of lithium carbonate has soared throughout the past decade, leading it to be labelled the “white gold” or “petroleum of the future”. With demand for this metal set to continue rising in the near future, South America – which holds more than half of lithium reserves worldwide – has found itself at the center of attention, with governments and companies alike trying to secure a piece of the pie.

Welcome to the lithium triangle

Chile is by far the largest lithium producer in the region, with an estimated output of nearly 18 thousand metric tons in 2020. Production is concentrated exclusively in Antofagasta, a region in the north of the country which, along with salt flats in Bolivia and Argentina, form the so-called “lithium triangle” in South America. Despite the overall increase in annual output in recent years, Chile has not managed to keep up with the growth in global demand, losing significant share in worldwide production. This is at least partially related to the government’s historically strict regulations, which gave Chilean mining company SQM and U.S.-based Albemarle exclusive exploration rights in the country. As of 2020, however, other mining corporations have started investing in Chile’s lithium projects.

In contrast, Argentina’s reserves – distributed between the provinces of Jujuy, Catamarca and Salta – have been a focus of foreign investment in recent years. U.S.-American Livent and Australian Orocobre are the largest lithium carbonate producers in the country. With foreign investment pouring in, lithium production in Argentina has more than doubled since the beginning of the decade. And expansions to the country’s lithium production capacity are already underway.

Meanwhile, lithium production in Bolivia, which is under exclusive governmental exploitation by state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos, is still in the pilot stage. Nevertheless, a new study has recently estimated the country’s lithium resources at 21 million metric tons, more than twice what had been previously evaluated, thus potentially making it the largest lithium reserve in the world.

Brazil gains traction in the lithium race

Located outside the lithium triangle, Brazil also ranks amongst the largest lithium producers worldwide, despite significantly smaller reserves. Until recently, Brazilian enterprise CBL, operating in the state of Minas Gerais, was the only lithium producing company in the country. But as other global mining companies start operations in the territory, Brazil also tries to profit from the higher stages of the metal’s value chain, with investments in lithium batteries’ production plants attracting billions of dollars.

Key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Lithium in South America" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.

Production

Exports

Leading players

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 25 most important statistics relating to "Lithium in South America".

Lithium in South America

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Lithium in South America - Statistics and Facts

Lithium, a silvery-white alkali metal discovered over two centuries ago – with usage ranging from glass and ceramics to mood disorder medication – has recently experienced a boom in popularity due to its utilization in ion-lithium batteries, the preferred power source for electric vehicles. As a result, the price of lithium carbonate has soared throughout the past decade, leading it to be labelled the “white gold” or “petroleum of the future”. With demand for this metal set to continue rising in the near future, South America – which holds more than half of lithium reserves worldwide – has found itself at the center of attention, with governments and companies alike trying to secure a piece of the pie.

Welcome to the lithium triangle

Chile is by far the largest lithium producer in the region, with an estimated output of nearly 18 thousand metric tons in 2020. Production is concentrated exclusively in Antofagasta, a region in the north of the country which, along with salt flats in Bolivia and Argentina, form the so-called “lithium triangle” in South America. Despite the overall increase in annual output in recent years, Chile has not managed to keep up with the growth in global demand, losing significant share in worldwide production. This is at least partially related to the government’s historically strict regulations, which gave Chilean mining company SQM and U.S.-based Albemarle exclusive exploration rights in the country. As of 2020, however, other mining corporations have started investing in Chile’s lithium projects.

In contrast, Argentina’s reserves – distributed between the provinces of Jujuy, Catamarca and Salta – have been a focus of foreign investment in recent years. U.S.-American Livent and Australian Orocobre are the largest lithium carbonate producers in the country. With foreign investment pouring in, lithium production in Argentina has more than doubled since the beginning of the decade. And expansions to the country’s lithium production capacity are already underway.

Meanwhile, lithium production in Bolivia, which is under exclusive governmental exploitation by state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos, is still in the pilot stage. Nevertheless, a new study has recently estimated the country’s lithium resources at 21 million metric tons, more than twice what had been previously evaluated, thus potentially making it the largest lithium reserve in the world.

Brazil gains traction in the lithium race

Located outside the lithium triangle, Brazil also ranks amongst the largest lithium producers worldwide, despite significantly smaller reserves. Until recently, Brazilian enterprise CBL, operating in the state of Minas Gerais, was the only lithium producing company in the country. But as other global mining companies start operations in the territory, Brazil also tries to profit from the higher stages of the metal’s value chain, with investments in lithium batteries’ production plants attracting billions of dollars.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 25 most important statistics relating to "Lithium in South America".

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