Lithium deposits not only in South America

The increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries has quickly made lithium one of the most sought-after raw materials. But lithium is not only an important raw material for the automotive industry. The silvery-white light metal is also urgently needed for the production of glass, ceramics and aluminum, among other things.

The largest deposits are in South America. But Germany also has huge lithium reserves that are to be commercially mined and used in the future.

Indispensable for modern technology

The development of so-called lithium-ion batteries has led to a veritable “lithium fever,” because the silvery-white light metal is the most important component of the long-lasting batteries. For modern cameras, laptops, smartphones and many other electronic devices, these batteries are indispensable. But since the automotive industry is increasingly relying on electric cars with lithium-ion batteries, the metal is highly prized by many raw material producers and could gain enormously in value in the future.

Lithium is the lightest of all metals and is actually quite common – but usually only in extremely low concentrations. Mining and processing are not quite so simple and unproblematic, because lithium causes severe burns and chemical burns even at the slightest touch.

Lithium extraction in South America

The world’s largest lithium deposits are in South America. Exactly between the countries Bolivia, Argentina and Chile lies the so-called “Lithium Triangle”. There, in the Atacama Desert, there are three salt lakes where the huge lithium reservoir is located.

To extract lithium, groundwater is pumped into artificial basins. There, the highly mineral-rich water evaporates until, in several steps, lithium is finally present in the desired concentration. The lithium concentrate thus obtained is then further processed as lithium carbonate.

In this way, not only lithium but also potassium chloride can be obtained. Depending on the mining area, the “lithium triangle” produces the silvery-white light metal as the main product and potassium as a by-product, or vice versa.

Lithium deposits in Germany

Lithium deposits are found all over the globe. In many places, however, lithium is only present in low concentrations, so that commercial mining is not worthwhile.

However, a huge lithium deposit has been found in the Upper Rhine Graben, along the route from Basel to Frankfurt am Main. Meanwhile, this has been further investigated in several research projects.

In the meantime, economically minable reserves of around 210000 tons of pure lithium are assumed, if the current state of the art is taken as a basis.

Australian resource producer Vulcan Energy estimates total resources in the area at around 3 million tons and has already secured exploration permits for 1.12 million tons of lithium.

The information on the presumed resources is not fully secured at this time. But based on Vulcan Energy’s estimates, the lithium resources in the Upper Rhine Graben are among the three largest deposits in Europe.




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