Lithium has become one of the most sought-after minerals, known as “white gold,” due to its increasing use in the energy sector.  Its applications range from lubricating grease to glass and ceramics, and it is particularly useful in lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles.  Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) is an innovative process that could potentially revolutionize the mining industry.  It involves using absorption, ion-exchange, membrane-separation, or solvent extraction processes to extract lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide from brine flows through a lithium-bonding material.  DLE has several benefits, including reducing the footprint of evaporation ponds, decreasing production times, increasing recovery, and reducing the need for freshwater.

The demand for lithium is expected to rise from 500,000 metric tons of LCE in 2021 to three million to four million metric tons in 2030.  However, the US holds just 3.6% of global lithium reserves, meaning that reliance on the international mining industry is greater than ever.  The major increase in demand for mines that specialize in graphite, cobalt, nickel, REEs, manganese, copper, silicon, and chromium, is apparent.  Despite this, there is good news on the horizon, as nations such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Peru have recently mapped lithium resources and reserves.  As demand continues to increase, so will the necessity to find new ways to extract and utilize lithium in the energy sector.

Lithium In The Energy Economy