The lithium mining sector has seen a proliferation of activity in the last 10 years. It has documented record revenues as lithium becomes more sought after due to its centrality in electric vehicle battery technology. We list the five biggest lithium producers by market cap, along with an overview of their current projects and main areas of business.
- Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd: Based in China with a market cap of $38.6bn. Jiangxi is primarily involved in the research, development, production, and sales of lithium products. The company sells lithium in both its metal form and compounds, including fluorides, chlorides, and others.Jiangxi Ganfeng is the largest lithium metal producer in the world, while its lithium compound capacity ranks third worldwide and first in China. The firm holds lithium resources across Australia, Argentina, and Mexico and has over 4,844 employees. It reported a revenue of 2020 $839.26 m in 2020, almost double the $432.11 m it reported in 2016.
Major projects: The company has invested in the equity of Bacanora Lithium PLC and acquired a 22.5% project interest in Sonora Lithium, a lithium clay project based in Sonora, Mexico. In addition, it has signed a strategic cooperation memorandum with VW to supply lithium chemical products to VW and its suppliers over the next decade. Signed a long-term supply agreement with BMW.
- Albemarle: Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a market cap of $26.8bn. The company operates 3 divisions: lithium, bromine specialties, and catalysts. Founded in 1994, the firm has grown to establish itself as the second-largest lithium miner in the world, with a revenue of $3.128bn in 2020. With over 5,000 employees in 100 countries worldwide, Albemarle, as of 2020, was the largest provider of lithium for electric vehicle batteries.
Major projects: The company owns lithium brine operations in Clayton Valley, near Silver Peak, US and the Salar de Atacama, Chile. It owns a 49% stake in the massive, hard-rock Greenbushes mine.
- Tianqi Lithium: Headquartered in China with a market cap of $24.39bn, Tianqi Lithium is the world’s largest hard-rock lithium producer and holds resource and production assets across Australia, Chile, and China. The company has over 1,800 employees globally and in 2018 controlled more than 46% of the global production of lithium. In its 2021 Q1 report, it announced total revenues of $140m.
Major projects: Tianqi paid $209.6m for a 2.1 percent stake in SQM in September 2016, which it then boosted to 23.77%, for $4.07bn, in 2018.The company has also developed a lithium hydroxide plant in the Kwinana Industrial Area, located south of Perth in Western Australia.
- Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile: A Chilean chemical company with a market cap of $14.03bn, the firm has five business areas, ranging from lithium and potassium to specialty plant nutrition. Its main production facilities are located in the Atacama Desert between Chile’s I and II regions. In 2020, Sociedad Química y Minera (SQM) produced 72.2 thousand tonnes of lithium carbonate at their Salar de Atacama mine. By comparison, in 2011 it mined only 38 thousand tonnes.
Major projects: The company produces lithium carbonate in its Salar del Carmen plant, close to Antofagasta, Chile. It uses the lithium carbonate from the plant to produce lithium hydroxide, which is used in batteries and colorants.
In 2016, SQM and Lithium Americas announced they would develop the Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in Argentina via a joint venture. Outside of South America, SQM is developing the Mount Holland lithium project in Australia, which is known as one of the world’s largest hard-rock mining deposits, in a joint venture with Wesfarmers.
- Pilbara Minerals: Pilbara Minerals is an Australian lithium mining company with a market cap of $6.8bn. It is engaged in the exploration, development, and mining of mineral resources, focusing on the development of lithium and tantalum projects. Its subsidiaries include Tabba Tabba Tantalum Pty Ltd, Sturt Resources Ltd, Pilbara Lithium Pty Ltd, and Pilgangoora Operations Pty Ltd. In 2020, it reported total revenues of $61m.
Major projects: The company owns 100% of the world’s largest, independent hard-rock lithium operation, located in Western Australia’s resource-rich Pilbara region. The Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project in Western Australia has attracted a consortium of high quality, global partners including Ganfeng Lithium, General Lithium, Great Wall Motor Company, POSCO, CATL, and Yibin Tianyi.