Where does lithium come from?

There are two forms of lithium that can be used in electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries, lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. So, the first question may be, where does lithium come from? Lithium comes from spodumene ore via hard rock mining, or from metallic brines stored in man-made ponds in the high deserts around the world, South America primarily.

Generally speaking, when brine is the source material, water has been pumped into the earth, usually in a very remote location, to create a brine that is captured in storage ponds. Over the course of 18-24 months, in ideal conditions, natural evaporation occurs, and the resulting material is lithium carbonate. Through an additional chemical process, the carbonate can be converted into lithium hydroxide.

The alternative to a brine operation is the hard rock mining of spodumene ore. Once the ore is mined, a concentrate is created where the lithium-infused spodumene is filtered and captured. The concentrate then goes to a chemical processing operation where the hydroxide is produced.

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