Australia leads the world in lithium production followed closely by the South American country of Chile.
A soft, silver-white metal, lithium is part of the alkali metal group. It is highly reactive and flammable. Due to its high reactivity, it hardly occurs in the free state in nature and is always found in the form of compounds. After the Second World War, lithium production experienced a boost due to technological advances and the need to produce nuclear fusion weapons. To commercially produce lithium, salts are extracted from water in mineral springs, brine pools or brine deposits. Then the metal is produced through electrolysis from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium.
Australia is the world leader in lithium production. Australia has the Greenbushes, which is the world’s largest known single lithium reserve. Companies are also looking at restarting lithium production at Mt. Cattlin in Western Australia. Unlike Chile and Argentina whose lithium is found in brines below the surface of salt flats, Australia extracts lithium from traditional hard-rock mines and exports a proportion of it to China and other Asian countries.
The Applications Of Lithium
Rechargeable batteries for a variety of devices like mobile phones, laptops, digital camera and more utilize lithium. Certain non-rechargeable batteries for items like clocks and pacemakers also make use of the metal. Lithium metal can also to form alloys with aluminum or magnesium, which is used for armor plating and in aircraft, bicycles, and trains. Lithium carbonate is used in the field of making glass and ceramics. It is also involved in producing aluminum. Lithium stearate is used in cosmetics, plastics, and its grease is used in aircraft and marine applications as well as other areas.
The Top Lithium Producing Countries In The World
Rank Country Lithium Mine Production (in metric tonnes), 2014
1 Australia 13,000
2 Chile 12,900
3 China 5,000
4 Argentina 2,900
5 Zimbabwe 1,000
6 Portugal 570
7 Brazil 400