For a consumerist society, energy intensive society, nothing is desperately more important than meeting their energy requirements.
Whatever camouflaging images industrial revolution may have created, coal was the fuel which energized the world then, and then the greedy world turned towards oil, and then parallel to hydel to nuclear to all forms.
The search for renewables has been activated by the volatile situation in Middle East as much as to rising concern for protecting the environment.
Inevitably there had been energy shifts.
For years we have been amid an energy paradigm shift. Nuclear perhaps coming on. Wind and renewables doing the heavy PR.
Lithium, vanadium (redox flow batteries), graphene (enrichment tech), silica batteries. Energy storage being touted as an energy source.
The landscape is very interesting. And let us not forget politics.
Welcome to the lithium decade
Lithium is everywhere. If you have a mobile phone or a laptop, you are taking advantage of one of the technological revolutions of the last 30 years: lithium-ion batteries. The battery of an electric car will have about 12 kilograms of lithium in it, while grid storage solutions that will help balance renewable energy would need much more.
Lithium has long been used in pharmaceuticals and in the manufacture of grease, ceramics, and glass, but has now become the symbolic element of the current energy revolution. Lithium is ubiquitous in our society and plays a role in our lives that could not have been previously imagined. From its mining to its applications in advanced battery materials and pharmaceuticals. Electric mobility will become the new normal.
Lithium is the new oil and it shows every signs of being similar to oil in sxtraction, in its uses for various economic acts as well as in geopolitics.
Demand for lithium is increasing exponentially, and it tripled in price between 2016 and 2022.
Not only the economic uses, but there is a whole lot of SCIENCE behind lithium that is making it indispensable for mankind
Lithium and its isotopes can provide information on natural drawdown process of atmospheric CO2 and a major control on climate.
Lithium isotopes themselves can help our understanding of weathering, Li isotopes can also be used to track weathering changes across major climate-change events.
Lithium isotope evidence from several past climatic warming and cooling episodes shows that weathering processes respond rapidly to changes in temperature, meaning that weathering is capable of bringing climate back under control within a few tens of thousands of years.
Driven by its new find utility lithium is now sought so much that it has started determining geopolitics.
This geopolitics hinges on who will control lithium, How well developed an electronic industry do they have, How much does one want, How do they want this lithium, and what is the price they are willing to pay for it.
Lithium is rare in the cosmos, but the formation of continental crust has concentrated lithium into economic deposits. More than 60% of the total lithium amount (about 26.9 Mt) exists in brines and sea water, especially those located in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, China and the USA . Therefore, a great potential exists for obtaining lithium from aqueous sources.
The supply of lithium has not been in line with the surge in demand from electric vehicle makers across the world. China also is witnessing a mismatch between demand and supply, which has led to a rise in prices.
While lithium is found in countries not able to use it for economic purpose, the ability to convert lithium into a lethal economic and so political power rests with China, and now India…USA and other countries follow thereafter.
And the game starts from here.
The Chinese intent is to to control entire electronics industry of the world which coupled with REE availability in Tibet makes Chinese a formidable force which Chinese will acquire at all possible cost.
China aims to expand its influence in the “Lithium Triangle” as a component of a broader campaign to construct a near-monopoly in the global lithium market. The Lithium Triangle, and Bolivia lithium mining operations enables China to dominate regional lithium operations. From 2018- 2020, China invested approximately $16 billion on mining projects in the Lithium Triangle and will likely continue to invest in the region.
China’s economic involvement within Argentina’s lithium mining industry allows Beijing to establish a stronger position in the global lithium market which can undermine future U.S mining operations within the region. Argentina harbors 21% of global lithium reserves.
The Chinese have kept aquiring operations after operations in South America.
That includes Chinese-backed development of a lithium battery manufacturing plant in Jujuy province, Tres Quebradas project. acquisition of Lithium mining company Argentinian Lithea. investing $290 million toward the Laguna Verde Project, acquisition of Chilean mining company Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile’s (SQM).
The acquisition of the various mining contract enables China’s exploitation of 80,000 tons of lithium; this expansion, will further embolden Chinese resource dominance in global lithium markets. In 2021, China imported 39% of Chile’s lithium.
Beijing’s economic cooperation within Bolivia’s mining industry expands China’s presence in the state with the world’s largest untapped lithium reserves. China’s strategic investment solidifies Bolivian economic cooperation and secures a presence untapped lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni salt flat.
Beijing’s economic dominance within the Lithium Triangle potentially threatens the U.S defense industrial base, affecting lithium supplies for military hardware. The U.S defense industrial base relies on a steady lithium supply; for example, a majority of U.S military weaponry, navigational, and communication systems utilize lithium ion-batteries. Chinese dominance within lithium markets could enable China to manipulate lithium output to the detriment of the U.S. and further empower Beijing in this crucial market. Chinese companies’ purchase of top lithium mining operations within Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile may deliberately dismantle future U.S economic and trade prospects within the Lithium Triangle. China already controls approximately 76% of global lithium-ion battery manufacturing, and future investments will only further solidify its dominance in global lithium markets.
If that is not enough, China deals underhand and its corrupt state and non state actors with Afghanistan rebels and its militant organisation to exploit it, All these groups illegally mine and use revenue to fund supporters of terrorism. The interest of China is different from USA and same as well as both want to exploit Afghani people while allowing them to live in abject poverty.
India is at odds with a major import source for the mineral, China. India needs to develop its electronic industry as well as electricity storage business to be of some significance in the world electric and electronics market.
India has been scouting for lithium reserves as the mineral is a key component of lithium-ion batteries, the demand for which has surged amid the Centre’s push to boost the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the country. The ₹18,000 crore production-linked incentive scheme for advanced chemistry cell (ACC) battery storage, a flagship incentive scheme for the industry has kicked off and the supply of lithium, which is largely an imported product, has declined. With India being in a diplomatic tussle with China, the supplies from the neighbouring country have declined and India too is looking for other import avenues.
India is dependent on imports for lithium as production in the country is minimal. India was importing the by-product, lithium-ion batteries. The first traces of the lithium have been found in Karnataka’s Mandya district, a mere 100 kilometres from Bengaluru. The preliminary find is relatively small, with just about 1,600 tonnes of lithium deposits.
India has sources to look for lithium..notably from Australia.
Australia was the largest lithium producer in 2021, Australia primarily extracts the alkali metal from spodumene, a lithium bearing mineral.
India has two options-One a feeble suppy from its own geology and second from international market.
India is searching for domestic reserves and looking for newer countries to source the mineral. Recently, India committed to jointly invest $6 million with the Australian government to explore lithium and cobalt mines there over the next six months. Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL) has signed a preliminary agreement with Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office. In 2020, KABIL also signed a pact with an Argentine firm to jointly explore lithium in the South American country.
A new development basking on the glory of India’s soft power and its goodwill has been Africa.
African countries weary of Chinese nefarious intent stung by its BRI have pledged themselves to supply lithium.
India had a lot to gain here as India has not followed a debt trap diplomacy unlike the Chinese. African countries are somehow realising that Chinese create instability and then take advantage out of it. India on the other hand has used its soft power rather. India has given good amount of loans to African countries, and the only condition has been they have to buy Indian goods from Indian manufacturers.
The future of the world and its peace will be determined by scramble for lithium. Lithium may not be the panacea for all ills, but it is precious now.
As lithium continue to be used and misused soon there will be some scenario related to its effects on the environment and a different narrative emerging out of it.
Like any mining process lithium mining is invasive, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells Lithium extraction uses a lot of water – approximately 500,000 gallons per tonne of lithium. In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, mining activities consumed 65 per cent of the region’s water. That is having a big impact on local farmers – who grow quinoa and herd llamas –
Lithium extraction inevitably harms the soil and causes air contamination.
In Argentina’s Salar de Hombre Muerto, locals claim that lithium operations have contaminated streams used by humans and livestock, and for crop irrigation.
As the world scrambles to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the environmental impact of finding all the lithium required to enable that transformation could become a serious issue in its own right both for environment as well for countries always jumping on to create a narrative.
Lithium is a silvery white metal. It is the lightest metal known to man and belongs to the alkali metals. Being an alkali metal, it is extremely reactive, in particular with oxygen.
Lithium is not found in its native state. It’s main sources are igneous rocks and brine. The main igneous rocks used as sources of lithium are:
The 124 recognized Li mineral species occur largely in four geologic environments: (1) Lithium–Cesium–Tantalum (LCT) granitic pegmatites and associated metasomatic rocks; (2) highly peralkaline pegmatites; (3) metasomatic rocks not directly associated with pegmatites; (4) manganese deposits.
Lithium is rare in the cosmos, but the formation of continental crust has concentrated lithium into economic deposits. relatively low efficiency. Nonetheless, according to a reported research, more than 60% of the total lithium amount (about 26.9 Mt) exists in brines and sea water, especially those located in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, China and the USA . Therefore, a great potential exists for obtaining lithium from aqueous sources.
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