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Lithium

Summary

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Application

About 5 per cent of lithium production is for lithium metal (3 000 tonne per year world wide) which is growing rapidly.

In industry, lithium is used in aluminium smelting as lithium carbonate.

In products, lithium is used in batteries and in semi conductors as ...more coming soon..., and in glasses and ceramics as lithium halides, carbonates, sulfates and borates, and in lubricants as the salt of fatty acids .

Demand

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Price

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Trade

Imports

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Exports

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Production

Gwalia Consolidated Limited, at Greenbushes (near Nannup, south west of Western Australia) produces about 60 000 tonnes of the lithium mineral spodumene. It supplies about 60 per cent of the world market from its mine that has the highest grade and largest lithium mineral resource in the world. Spodumene production is valued about 12 million dollars containing about 4 per cent lithium (or 7.5% as Li2O equivalent to 2 thousand tonnes of lithium metal). The plant has been mothballed following a fall in the world price of lithium.

Gwalia planned to manufacture about 5 000 tonnes of lithium carbonate in a plant costing 17.5 million dollars. The process required about 5 000 tonnes of sodium carbonate. It is used to leach the lithium from the spodumene at 1 000°C which is then treated with carbon dioxide to form the soluble lithium bicarbonate. After filtration, the remaining solution is treated with sodium hydroxide to crystalise the lithium carbonate. The only significant waste not recycled is sodium alumino silicate (analcite). With a turnover of about 28 million dollars per year, it would have supplied about 13 per cent of the world market estimated at 45 000 tonnes per year. (valued at around 300 million dollars at A$6 per kilogram). (About 4 per cent is made into the metal with world demand at around 250 tonnes).

Technology

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Raw Materials

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