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Peak Lithium Won’t Happen Anytime Soon


By Irina Slav – Aug 12, 2018, 2:00 PM CDT

The tricky thing about minerals is that the estimation of resources and reserves are dependent on a lot of variables. And change in just one of these variables could make a vast difference in the size of the estimate. As Bloomberg columnist David Fickling noted in a recent story, a change in the variable of price, for example, can make billions of barrels of oil disappear. This is exactly what happened to Exxon: the company revised down its recoverable reserves by 3.3 billion barrels because of lower oil prices. Yet the oil is still there. It has not disappeared.

The lithium is also there. According to an estimate—that tricky word again—by the U.S. Geological Survey, global reserves as of 2015 were 13.5 million tons, with production during the previous year at 36,000 tons. Production last year reached 43,000 tons and will likely continue to rise as automakers double down on their EV strategies. But, and this is the important thing, so will reserve estimates. Battery efficiency will continue to improve, so batteries might at some point start needing less lithium than they need now, and so will extraction technology, as producers naturally seek to make the most of available reserves before moving into new exploration. Peak lithium is not happening any time soon.

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