General description of lithium mining: Currently lithium is mainly produced in five countries: Australia (from minerals such as spodumene), Chile (brine), Argentina (brine), China (minerals and brine) and the United States (brine). Chile provides approximately 22% of all lithium in the world. As in any mining operation, lithium mining has an important impact on the environment. Every time a company wants to start a large scale mining operation, whether it is metallic or non-metallic mining, there is an environmental impact and a great concern from the communities surrounding the extraction areas, not only due to the different contaminants that normally arises from the mining industry, but also due to the increased use of water and electricity.
In the majority of developed countries, among them many European countries like Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom, they have announced that by 2025 and 2030 only electric cars and buses will be able to drive through their cities. China has also declared a similar measure, because their main objective is to have only electric public transportation by then. We can state that the majority of countries are currently trying, one way or another, to become as independent as possible from fossil fuels, favoring alternative sources of energy and electric cars, and this is one of the most important factors for the rapid rise of the lithium industry that is experiencing today, not only in the mining sector, but also in the production of different and more efficient batteries for various uses.
The key to the technology that sustains electro-mobility is the ion lithium battery, which is formed by thousands of units called “electro-chemical cells”, which in turn are composed by a type LNCA (Lithium-Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum) or by a LNMC (Lithium-Nickel-Magnesium-Cobalt) lithium cathode, a generally graphite anode (whether natural or synthetic), an electrolyte (formed by lithium salt and an organic solvent) and a plastic material separator. The voltage of this electro-chemical unitary cell is currently between 3,6 and 4,5 volts. Lithium consumption for a Ion-Lithium battery requires the equivalent of lithium carbonate (LCE) of about 0,75 and 0,8 kg per kWh. Therefore, a 70 kWh battery (a typical Tesla battery for its Model S car) consumes between 53 to 56 kg of Li2C03 battery grade.