Visualizing Global Demand for Lithium
Lithium is one of the most in-demand commodities in the world today.
With the ongoing shift to electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy technologies, governments and EV manufacturers are rushing to secure their supply chains as demand for lithium soars.
But while China has a strong foothold in the lithium race, the U.S. is lagging behind. This infographic from our sponsor Scotch Creek Ventures highlights the rising demand for lithium and the need for a domestic supply chain in the United States.
What’s Driving the Demand for Lithium?
Global lithium production more than doubled in the last four years to 82,000 metric tons in 2020, up from 38,000 metric tons in 2016. Here are some of the factors driving the lithium rush:
- More EVs on the Road:
EV sales have been accelerating in recent years. Between 2016 and 2020, annual electric car sales increased by 297%, up from around 750,000 to nearly 2.9 million cars last year.
- Falling Battery Prices:
Declining lithium-ion battery prices are allowing EVs to compete more aggressively with gas-powered cars. Since 2013, battery costs have fallen 80% with a volume-weighted average of $137/kWh in 2020.
- Rise of the Battery Megafactories:
More battery manufacturing capacity means more demand for the critical minerals that go into batteries. As of March 2021, there were 200 battery megafactories in the pipeline to 2030, and 122 of those were already operational. According to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, if all 200 battery megafactories were operating at full capacity, their annual demand for lithium would be 3 million tonnes. That’s almost 37 times the 82,000 tonnes produced in 2020.
Although the demand for lithium is rising globally, its supply chain from mines to batteries relies on a only few critical nations.
China’s Lithium Dominance
In 2020, Australia, Chile, and China collectively made up 88% of global lithium production. After mining, the lithium supply chain involves refining, processing, and packaging the lithium into batteries—and the majority of this occurs in China.
In 2019, China produced 80% of the world’s refined battery chemicals, in addition to 73% of lithium-ion battery cells. What’s more, of the 200 battery megafactories in the pipeline to 2030, 148 are in China. As a result, China is far ahead of other countries in the race for lithium and batteries.
On the other hand, the U.S. is heavily reliant on imports for its supply of lithium, with only one lithium-producing mine in the country. As demand increases, this lack of production could threaten U.S. energy independence in the future. To address this and gaps in the supply of other critical minerals, U.S. President Biden also signed an executive order aiming to build secure supply chains for strategic minerals.
But where is lithium in the United States?
Nevada: The Lithium State
Nevada is known as the Silver State for its rich history of silver mining. Today, it’s the only source of lithium production in the U.S.
Clayton Valley and Kings Valley, two of the country’s largest lithium deposits, are in Nevada. The country’s only producing mine, Albemarle’s Silver Peak Mine, produces around 5,000 tonnes of lithium every year in Clayton Valley. Furthermore, the region is among the world’s richest closed-basin brine deposits based on grade and tonnage.
In addition to a rich lithium deposit, mining companies in Clayton Valley can also reap the advantages of Nevada as a jurisdiction. These include access to infrastructure, a skilled mining workforce, and proximity to a battery manufacturing base with Tesla Gigafactory 1. But that’s not all—in 2020, the Fraser Institute gave Nevada the top spot for mining investment attractiveness globally.
Meeting Lithium Demand for Energy Independence
As countries work to expand EV adoption, critical battery metals like lithium are becoming geopolitically significant, and their supply could redefine energy independence going forward. For this reason, the U.S., EU, and Canada all have lithium on their list of minerals that are critical to national security.
The U.S. needs to build a domestic lithium supply chain from the ground up, and Nevada has the potential to support it with lithium in Clayton Valley. Scotch Creek Ventures is developing two lithium mining projects in Clayton Valley to supply lithium for the green future.
Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain
Nearly 50% of global silver production comes from South and Central America. Here’s a look at the global silver supply chain.
Visualizing the Global Silver Supply Chain
Although silver is widely known as a precious metal, its industrial uses accounted for more than 50% of silver demand in 2020.
From jewelry to electronics, various industries utilize silver’s high conductivity, aesthetic appeal, and other properties in different ways. With the adoption of electric vehicles, 5G networks, and solar panels, the world is embracing more technologies that rely on silver.
But behind all this silver are the companies that mine and refine the precious metal before it reaches other industries.
The above infographic from Blackrock Silver outlines silver’s global supply chain and brings the future of silver supply into the spotlight.
The Top 20 Countries for Silver Mining
Although silver miners operate in many countries across the globe, the majority of silver comes from a few regions.
|Rank||Country||2020 Production (million ounces)||% of Total|
|8||United States 🇺🇸||31.7||4.0%|
|18||Papua New Guinea 🇵🇬||4.2||0.5%|
|19||Dominican Republic 🇩🇴||3.8||0.5%|
|N/A||Rest of the World 🌎||34.2||4.4%|
Mexico, Peru, and China—the top three producers—combined for just over 50% of global silver production in 2020. South and Central American countries, including Mexico and Peru, produced around 390 million ounces—roughly half of the 784 million ounces mined globally.
Silver currency backed China’s entire economy at one point in history. Today, China is not only the third-largest silver producer but also the third-largest largest consumer of silver jewelry.
Poland is one of only three European countries in the mix. More than 99% of Poland’s silver comes from the KGHM Polska Miedź Mine, the world’s largest silver mining operation.
While silver’s supply chain spans all four hemispheres, concentrated production in a few countries puts it at risk of disruptions.
The Sustainability of Silver’s Supply Chain
The mining industry can often be subject to political crossfire in jurisdictions that aren’t safe or politically stable. Mexico, Chile, and Peru—three of the top five silver-producing nations—have the highest number of mining conflicts in Latin America.
Alongside production in politically unstable jurisdictions, the lack of silver-primary mines reinforces the need for a sustainable silver supply chain. According to the World Silver Survey, only 27% of silver comes from silver-primary mines. The other 73% is a by-product of mining for other metals like copper, zinc, gold, and others.
As the industrial demand for silver rises, primary sources of silver in stable jurisdictions will become more valuable—and Nevada is one such jurisdiction.
Nevada: The Silver State
Nevada, known as the Silver State, was once the pinnacle of silver mining in the United States.
The discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, one of America’s richest silver deposits, spurred a silver rush in Nevada. But after the Comstock Lode mines began declining around 1874, it was the Tonopah district that brought Nevada’s silver production back to life.
Tonopah is a silver-primary district with a 100:1 silver-to-gold ratio. It also boasts 174 million ounces of historical silver production under its belt. Furthermore, between 1900 and 1950, Tonopah produced high-grade silver with an average grade of 1,384 grams per tonne. However, the Second World War brought a stop to mining in Tonopah, with plenty of silver left to discover.
Today, Nevada is the second-largest silver-producing state in the U.S. and the Tonopah district offers the opportunity to revive a secure and stable source of primary silver production for the future.
Blackrock Silver is working to bring silver back to the Silver State with exploration at its flagship Tonopah West project in Nevada.
A Complete Visual Guide to Carbon Markets
Carbon markets are booming. But how do they work? In this infographic, we show how carbon markets are advancing corporate climate ambitions.
A Complete Visual Guide to Carbon Markets
Carbon markets enable the trading of carbon credits, also referred to as carbon offsets.
One carbon credit is equivalent to one metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Going further, carbon markets help companies offset their emissions and work towards their climate goals. But how exactly do carbon markets work?
In this infographic from Carbon Streaming Corporation, we look at the fundamentals of carbon markets and why they show significant growth potential.
What Are Carbon Markets?
For many companies, such as Microsoft, Delta, Shell and Gucci, carbon markets play an important role in offsetting their impact on the environment and meeting climate targets.
Companies buy a carbon credit, which funds a GHG reduction project such as reforestation. This allows the company to offset their GHG emissions. There are two main types of carbon markets, based on whether emission reductions are mandatory, or voluntary:
Mandatory systems regulated by government organizations to cap emissions for specific industries.
Voluntary Carbon Markets:
Where carbon credits can be purchased by those that voluntarily want to offset their emissions.
As demand to cut emissions intensifies, voluntary carbon market volume has grown five-fold in less than five years.
Drivers of Carbon Market Demand
What factors are behind this surge in volume?
- Paris Agreement: Companies seeking alignment with these goals.
- Technological Gaps: Companies are limited by technologies that are available at scale and not cost-prohibitive.
- Time Gaps: Companies do not have the means to eliminate all emissions today.
- Shareholder Pressure: Companies are facing pressure from shareholders to address their emissions.
For these reasons, carbon markets are a useful tool in decarbonizing the global economy.
Voluntary Markets 101
To start, there are four key participants in voluntary carbon markets:
- Project Developers: Teams who design and implement carbon offset projects that generate carbon credits.
- Standards Bodies: Organizations that certify and set the criteria for carbon offsets e.g. Verra and the Gold Standard.
- Brokers: Intermediaries facilitating carbon credit transactions between buyers and project developers.
- End Buyers: Entities such as individuals or corporations looking to offset their carbon emissions through purchasing carbon credits.
Secondly, carbon offset projects fall within one of two main categories.
Avoidance / reduction projects prevent or reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere. These may include avoided deforestation or projects that preserve biomass.
Removal / sequestration projects, on the other hand, remove carbon from the atmosphere, where projects may focus on reforestation or direct air capture.
In addition, carbon offset projects may offer co-benefits, which provide advantages that go beyond carbon reduction.
What are Co-Benefits?
When a carbon project offers co-benefits, it means that they provide features on top of carbon credits, such as environmental or economic characteristics, that may align with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Here are some examples of co-benefits a project may offer:
- Biodiversity: Protecting local wildlife that would otherwise be endangered through deforestation.
- Social: Promoting gender equality through supporting women in management positions and local business development.
- Economic: Creating job opportunities in local communities.
- Educational: Providing educational awareness of carbon mitigation within local areas, such as primary and secondary schools.
Often, companies are looking to buy carbon credits that make the greatest sustainable impact. Co-benefits can offer additional value that simultaneously address broader climate challenges.
Why Market Values Are Increasing
In 2021, market values in voluntary carbon markets are set to exceed $1 billion.
|Year||Traded Volume of Carbon Offsets (MtCO₂e)||Voluntary Market Transaction Value|
*As of Aug. 31, 2021
Source: Ecosystem Marketplace (Sep 2021)
Today, oil majors, banks, and airlines are active players in the market. As corporate climate targets multiply, future demand for carbon credits is projected to jump 15-fold by 2030 according to the Task Force on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets.
What Qualifies as a High-Quality Carbon Offset?
Here are five key criteria for examining the quality of a carbon offset:
- Additionality: Projects are unable to exist without revenue derived from carbon credits.
- Verification: Monitored, reported, and verified by a credible third-party.
- Permanence: Carbon reduction or removal will not be reversed.
- Measurability: Calculated according to scientific data through a recognized methodology.
- Avoid Leakage: An increase in emissions should not occur elsewhere, or account for any that do occur.
In fact, the road to net-zero requires a 23 gigatonne (GT) annual reduction in CO₂ emissions relative to current levels. High quality offsets can help meet this goal.
Fighting Climate Change
As the urgency to tackle global emissions accelerates, demand for carbon credits is poised to increase substantially—bringing much needed capital to innovative projects.
Not only do carbon credits fund nature-based projects, they also finance technological advancements and new innovations in carbon removal and reduction. For companies looking to reach their climate ambitions, carbon markets will continue to play a more concrete role.
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