Australia currently produces approximately 43% of the world’s lithium through mining, based on contained lithium tonnes and contains approximately 17% of the world’s reserves (USGS 2018). A significant source and reserve of lithium is from the Salars in South America. Australia’s only source of lithium is from the mineral spodumene (Li2O.Al2O3.4SiO2) present in LCT pegmatites (Lithium-Caesium-Tantalum). Spodumene is beneficiated from these ores by Dense Medium Separation (DMS) at coarse sizes and flotation at fine sizes to produce concentrates typically above 6% Li2O.
Batteries use almost half of the world’s current production of lithium at 46% followed by ceramics and glass at 27% and then greases at 7% (USGS 2018). Spodumene is required to be processed into either lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide for use in batteries. Tianqi Lithium are currently completing construction a lithium hydroxide plant at Kwinana, with construction already started on the expansion to double capacity to 48,000 tonnes a year. A JV between SQM and Kidman Resources has chosen Kwinana as site for a 44,000 tonnes a year of lithium hydroxide refinery.