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Project at a Glance

  • Lithium is an alkali metal, and like all the other alkali metals, it reacts spontaneously with water, liberating hydrogen gas.
  • Lithium is the lightest of all metals, with a density only about half that of water. It does not occur free in nature; combined it is found in small amounts in nearly all igneous rocks and in the waters of many mineral springs.
  • Lithium minerals occur mainly in granitic pegmatites. Spodumene, a lithium-aluminum silicate, and naturally occurring lithium-containing brines are the main sources of lithium.Lithium is most commonly extracted from spodumene.
  • It is used as a desgasifier and refining agent for molten metals and in the production of copper and its alloys.
  • The lithium fluoride is used in the manufacturing of prisms and infrared spectrophotometers and it is used in the production of enamels. The lithium chloride and bromide can be used as drying agents and are also used as lubricants. One of the most imp ortant applications of this element is in the reagent preparation for organic synthesis, in particular of the complex hydrides of aluminum and boron, with widespread applications.
  • Lithium salts can be used to suppress alkali-silica reactions in concrete.
  • Today, lithium is administered to patients as a lithium salt, usually as lithium carbonate or lithium citrate, which is taken by mouth in capsule, tablet, or syrup form. Pharmaceutical companies often assign a "trade name" to their products. Examples of trade names for lithium are Cibalith, Eskalith, Lithane, and Lithobid.
  • It is also an important battery anode material, used in lithium ion batteries due to its high electrochemical potential. In addition to being lighter than the standard dry cell, these batteries produce a higher voltage (3 volts versus 1.5 volts).
  • Chile, China and the United States are the world’s leading producers of lithium ore and brine. Other significant producers include Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Portugal,Russia and Zimbabwe.
  • The United States is the largest producer and consumer of lithium minerals and compounds worldwide.In Canada, lithium is primarily consumed by the aluminum industry as lithium carbonate.
  • Prices of lithium carbonate rose by 20% in 2005 and growth of up to 25% is forecast by Roskill Consulting Group for 2006, bringing prices back to the peak levels seen prior to SQM's entry into the market in 1996. New capacity due on-stream in Chile, Argentina and China is forecast to alleviate the upward pressure on prices after 2007.
  • China may emerge as a significant producer of brine-based lithium carbonate towards the end of this decade. Potential capacity of up to 45,000 tonnes per year could come on-stream if projects in Qinghai province and Tibet proceed.
  • Portable electronic consumer products will remain the main area of growth for secondary batteries through 2010, with shipments to the Asian cellular phone market alone estimated to rise by 50%py and growth rates in Russia and Poland reaching 70%py.

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