TRU Group's Lithium Outlook
By Bill Moore
There's plenty of lithium in the world, experts contend, while others argue just the opposite. Who's right?
Edward R. Anderson, the president of TRU Group, believes he knows the answer, because he and his team have been to the places lithium is found and talked to the people who mine and refine it, as well as the companies that use it. Hired by Mitsubishi, his firm's research strongly suggests that the current supply chain of lithium carbonate producers is adequate to meet future demand out to around 2020, though he does see potential constraints starting to develop around 2017 as the market for electric car batteries begins to heat up.
Anderson presented his findings at the Lithium Supply and Markets 2009 conference in Santiago, Chile this past January. Because EV World has been instrumental/implicated in prompting/inciting debate on the issue of lithium availability, I requested Mr. Anderson talk to us about his findings and their conclusions. Our 35-minute dialogue -- podcast here in MP3 format -- offers fascinating insight into the future of lithium carbonate production (with an early sidebar digression about China's takeover of the world's magnesium market).
Of particular interest is his firm's assumptions about the timing of the market for plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars and what impact their introduction is likely to have on lithium supplies. Intriguingly, when asked by his client, Mitsubishi, why he didn't wish to project beyond the 2020 date, Anderson explains that by that time, fuel cells -- and possibly other battery chemistries -- will have begun to offer real competition to lithium batteries.
And what about all those much-discussed lithium reserves in Bolivia, we asked? There may not be as much there as has been assumed, he replies, but its hard to know for certain because so little is known about the resource and its sustainability. Up to this point, he contends, only a few shallow trenches have been dug and in order to really know what the reserve holds, much more deep drilling needs to be done. In short, the Salar de Uyuni simply hasn't been adequately surveyed to offer a clear picture on its potential.
Anderson believes that his firm's analysis, funded by Mitsubishi, is the most current and accurate appraisal of the lithium supply market to date and represents the newest benchmark for estimating future availability of this strategic resource. If you're interested in the lithium supply debate, this podcast will be well worth the time spent.
Use either of the two MP3 players in the center column to listen to the discussion, or download the file to your computer hard drive for transfer to your favorite portable MP3 device.
Pictured below is an aerial view of a lithium salt brine evaporation pond system in the Salar de Atacama in Chile. Both photos courtesy of Edward R. Anderson.