Following declining output in 2020, due to the impact of lower prices and the Covid-19 pandemic, global lithium metal production is estimated to have grown rapidly for the second year in a row in 2022, reaching 118.4 kilotonnes (kt). Production from Australia (+24.5%), and Argentina (+68.8%) were significant contributors to the overall growth. In addition, output from Chile also grew albeit by an estimated marginal 2.3%.
Production growth in 2022 was supported by the resumption of operations at Australian mines that were previously suspended in late 2019 and 2020. For example, the Wodgina mine (suspended in late 2019), resumed operations in 2022, with production of spodumene concentrate from the first and second trains at the Wodgina mine commencing in May and July of that year, respectively. One of the world’s richest spodumene ore bodies, the mine has a life of 27 years and is jointly owned by Albemarle Corporation and Mineral Resources. Furthermore, ongoing expansions at the Greenbushes and Pilgangoora projects further boosted production in 2022. During the FY22 (Year ending 30 June), Greenbushes produced 1,135kt of spodumene concentrate, up from its target of 1,100kt to 1,250kt, driven by increased throughput and improved recovery. The mine’s production is expected to further increase to 1,350kt-1,450kt in FY23.
Meanwhile, higher production from Argentina’s Salar De Olaroz and Salar del Hombre Muerto mines, coupled with a yield enhancement plan at Chile’s Salar de Atacama mine (from 53.6% in 2021 to 65% in 2030) to improve on-site procedures to recover a greater amount of lithium from the lithium production system output drove higher global lithium production in South America in 2022.
Looking ahead, GlobalData anticipates substantial growth in lithium production in the upcoming years. New mines and capacity expansions are forecast to boost global lithium production to 304kt in 2030. Most of this growth will originate from Australia, with the existing mines ramping up production such as Mount Cattlin and Pilgangoora. Additionally, the expansion of Greenbushes will further boost output.