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Visualizing the World’s Largest Lithium Producers

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Lithium Producers

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2022

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Lithium has become essential in recent years, primarily due to the boom in electric vehicles and other clean technologies that rely on lithium batteries.

The global lithium-ion battery market was valued at $52 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $194 billion in 2030.

The infographic above uses data from the United States Geological Survey to explore the world’s largest lithium producing countries.

Australia and Chile: Dominating Global Lithium Supply

Australia and Chile stand out as the top producers of lithium, accounting for almost 77% of the global production in 2022.

RankCountryMine production 2022E (tonnes)Share (%)
1🇦🇺 Australia61,00046.9%
2🇨🇱 Chile39,00030.0%
3🇨🇳 China19,00014.6%
4🇦🇷 Argentina6,2004.8%
5🇧🇷 Brazil2,2001.7%
6🇿🇼 Zimbabwe8000.6%
7🇵🇹 Portugal6000.5%
8🇨🇦 Canada5000.4%
🌎 Other countries*7000.5%
🌐 World Total130,000100.0%

*U.S. production data was withheld to avoid disclosing proprietary company data

Australia, the world’s leading producer, extracts lithium directly from hard rock mines, specifically the mineral spodumene.

Chile, along with Argentina, China, and other top producers, extracts lithium from brine.

Hard rock provides greater flexibility as lithium hosted in spodumene can be processed into either lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate. It also offers faster processing and higher quality as spodumene typically contains higher lithium content.

Extracting lithium from brine, on the other hand, offers the advantage of lower production costs and a smaller impact on the environment. The following visual from Benchmark Minerals helps break down the carbon impact of different types of lithium extraction.

Hard rock lithium sources are three time as carbon intensive as brine

With that said, brine extraction can also face challenges related to water availability and environmental impacts on local ecosystems.

Historical Shifts in the Lithium Supply Chain

In the 1990s, the United States held the title of the largest lithium producer, producing over one-third of the global production in 1995.

However, Chile eventually overtook the U.S., experiencing a production boom in the Salar de Atacama, one of the world’s richest lithium brine deposits. Since then, Australia’s lithium production has also skyrocketed, now accounting for 47% of the world’s lithium production.

China, the world’s third-largest producer, not only focuses on developing domestic mines but has also strategically acquired approximately $5.6 billion worth of lithium assets in countries like Chile, Canada, and Australia over the past decade.

Furthermore, China currently hosts nearly 60% of the world’s lithium refining capacity for batteries, underlining its dominant position in the lithium supply chain.

Meeting Lithium Demand: The Need for New Production

As the world increases its production of batteries and electric vehicles, the demand for lithium is projected to soar.

In 2021, global lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) production sat at 540,000 tonnes.

By 2025, demand is expected to reach 1.5 million tonnes of LCE. By 2030, this number is estimated to exceed 3 million tonnes.

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Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium reserves by country, with 3 countries accounting for more than half of total reserves.

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A cropped chart visualizing the distribution of the global uranium reserves, by country.

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

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There can be a tendency to believe that uranium deposits are scarce from the critical role it plays in generating nuclear energy, along with all the costs and consequences related to the field.

But uranium is actually fairly plentiful: it’s more abundant than gold and silver, for example, and about as present as tin in the Earth’s crust.

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium resources by country, as of 2021. Figures come from the World Nuclear Association, last updated on August 2023.

Ranked: Uranium Reserves By Country (2021)

Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada have the largest shares of available uranium resources—accounting for more than 50% of total global reserves.

But within these three, Australia is the clear standout, with more than 1.7 million tonnes of uranium discovered (28% of the world’s reserves) currently. Its Olympic Dam mine, located about 600 kilometers north of Adelaide, is the the largest single deposit of uranium in the world—and also, interestingly, the fourth largest copper deposit.

Despite this, Australia is only the fourth biggest uranium producer currently, and ranks fifth for all-time uranium production.

CountryShare of Global
Reserves
Uranium Reserves (Tonnes)
🇦🇺 Australia28%1.7M
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan13%815K
🇨🇦 Canada10%589K
🇷🇺 Russia8%481K
🇳🇦 Namibia8%470K
🇿🇦 South Africa5%321K
🇧🇷 Brazil5%311K
🇳🇪 Niger5%277K
🇨🇳 China4%224K
🇲🇳 Mongolia2%145K
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan2%131K
🇺🇦 Ukraine2%107K
🌍 Rest of World9%524K
Total100%6M

Figures are rounded.

Outside the top three, Russia and Namibia both have roughly the same amount of uranium reserves: about 8% each, which works out to roughly 470,000 tonnes.

South Africa, Brazil, and Niger all have 5% each of the world’s total deposits as well.

China completes the top 10, with a 3% share of uranium reserves, or about 224,000 tonnes.

A caveat to this is that current data is based on known uranium reserves that are capable of being mined economically. The total amount of the world’s uranium is not known exactly—and new deposits can be found all the time. In fact the world’s known uranium reserves increased by about 25% in the last decade alone, thanks to better technology that improves exploration efforts.

Meanwhile, not all uranium deposits are equal. For example, in the aforementioned Olympic Dam, uranium is recovered as a byproduct of copper mining occurring at the same site. In South Africa, it emerges as a byproduct during treatment of ores in the gold mining process. Orebodies with high concentrations of two substances can increase margins, as costs can be shared for two different products.

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