February 15, 2024

Lithium occurrence and concentration grade around the nation: Resources, extraction technologies, and economics


Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite, quintessential for battery performance, longevity, and energy density, are pivotal in the transition to a cleaner energy system, signifying a surge in the demand for these minerals. This paper delineates the current status of US lithium resources, highlighting the pressing need for comprehensive documentation, extraction, and processing methodologies to ensure self-sufficiency and independence in lithium supply. Rare earth elements, indispensable for the fabrication of permanent magnets incorporated in wind turbines and electric vehicle motors, underpin the significance of these minerals. Further, the deployment of electricity networks necessitates an extensive use of copper and aluminum, with copper serving as a fundamental component across all electricity-related technologies. As we delve into the crux of the matter, the global thrust towards a sustainable energy system amplifies the demand for these aforementioned minerals. The paper is structured to address pivotal questions regarding the lithium supply, extraction processes, and the associated costs. Lithium, despite its relative scarcity in the universe, is a cornerstone for fostering a future that is less reliant on fossil fuels, thereby meeting the escalating demands for environmentally friendly energy production methodologies. The formation of the continental crust acts as a catalyst, concentrating lithium into deposits that are feasible for exploitation. Recent explorations have unveiled a treasure trove of lithium resources, with the global estimates clocking in at an impressive 89 million tons (DOE EERE, 2022). The minerals landscape is interspersed with 124 identified lithium-bearing species (Grew, 2020), each holding the promise of untapped potential and applications in the energy sector. Scholars and researchers have ventured into the depths of this fascinating domain, with a spotlight on the thermodynamic databases for an array of lithium minerals, ranging from bikitaite and cookeite to ephesite, hectorite, lepidolite, Li-mica, petalite, polylithionite, taeniolite, and zinnwaldite, courtesy of the meticulous work undertaken by Boschetti (2022). The paper's primary objective is to chart the topography of US lithium resources while offering insights into the nuances of current extraction and processing strategies. This initiative is imperative for crafting a roadmap that would navigate through the challenges and opportunities inherent in securing lithium independence for the United States. The text is partitioned into sections, each responding to the critical queries pertaining to the location of lithium supply, the extraction mechanisms, and the economic dimensions enveloping the cost factors. In exploring the lithium supply, the paper scrutinizes the geographical distribution of lithium deposits within the US territories, casting light on the abundance, accessibility, and potential yield of these reservoirs. The extraction section dives into the technological and methodological frameworks that are currently in play, elucidating the efficiency, sustainability, and environmental impact of each approach. Finally, the cost analysis segment unfolds the economic tapestry, unveiling the capital investment, operational expenses, and market dynamics that influence the price trajectory of lithium extraction and processing in the contemporary scenario. In encapsulation, the repor is an endeavor to consolidate and present an informed perspective on the US lithium resources, aiming to fortify the understanding and planning required to attain lithium independence. It is a canvas painted with data, analysis, and insights, providing a lens through which policymakers, industry leaders, and stakeholders can view and evaluate the prospects and pathways for securing a reliable, sustainable, and economically viable lithium supply for the nation's clean energy future. With lithium poised as a linchpin for the unfolding energy re

Published: February 15, 2024


Chesnutt J.M., N. Qafoku, and R.L. Kreuzer. 2023. Lithium occurrence and concentration grade around the nation: Resources, extraction technologies, and economics Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.