High-grade lithium has been discovered in Nigeria.
The Geological Agency described the lithium as high grade because what’s been found has between 1-13 per cent oxide content.
Normally exploration begins at levels as low as 0.4 percent.
Grade (in per cent) is a measure of concentration of the lithium in the minerals and or rocks that contains it.
Therefore, the higher the grade the more the economic viability. Higher grades are very rare for metals like lithium.
Lithium is a chemical element with symbol Liand atomic number 3.
It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal.
Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element.
Lithium is highly reactive and flammable, and is stored in mineral oil.
It never occurs freely in nature, but only in (usually ionic) compounds, such as pegmatitic minerals, which were once the main source of lithium.
Due to its solubility as an ion, it is present in ocean water and is commonly obtained from brines.
Lithium metal is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.
Lithium is a key component used in Electric Vehicle batteries. And India, through its Rs. 18,100- crore PLI scheme is offering incentives for companies to build battery cells locally.
China and Hong Kong are the biggest lithium battery suppliers to India.
Lithium Triangle is an intersection of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, known for high quality salt flats.
Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, Salar de Atacama in Chile and Salar de Arizaro in Argentina contains over 45%of known global lithium reserves.
Beneath Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat lays the world’s greatest lithium deposits.
Bolivia, one of South America’s poorest countries, envisions development by harvesting lithium on an industrial scale from underground saltwater brines.
It can be mined from rock or processed from brine.
Lithium dissolved in underground saline aquifers called “brine”, pumped to surface by wells and then allowed to evaporate in vast knee-deep ponds.
Lithium-ion batteries are generally more expensive but have better performance and are becoming the preferred technology. The different types are:
Lithium-cobalt oxide battery: It is used in consumer electronics and is finding application in electric vehicles. It is relatively cheap.
Lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt is a newer, higher performing range of battery chemistry. It is mainly developed for the electronic vehicle market but is finding a wider use because of its increasing cost effectiveness.
Lithium iron phosphate, the safest technology with relatively high performance but relatively expensive. It is very popular in China but is likely to become overtaken by Lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt over the longer term; and
Lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminium oxide developed to reduce cobalt consumption and is known as a solid performer and of reasonable cost. It is also becoming popular outside China.
Global Lithium Production:
Greenbushes mine in Western Australia is the largest hard-rock lithium mine in the world.
Global lithium mine production hit a record high of 100,000 tonnes in 2021, a 21 per cent increase over 2020.
According to 2020 data, three countries, Australia (40,000 tonnes), Chile (20,600 tonnes) and China (14,000 tonnes) mine about 86 per cent of the world’s lithium.
Others are Argentina (6,200 tonnes), Brazil (1,900 tonnes), Zimbabwe (1,200 tonnes), USA (900 tonnes) and Portugal (900 tonnes).
Lithium in Nigeria:
In Nigeria, lithium minerals (spodumene and lepidolite) are known to be associated with cassiterite, columbite-tantalite (coltan) and others in the extensive belt of rare metal-bearing rock types called pegmatite.