Global lithium production in 2019 stood at 77,000 tonnes - but as interest in the metal continues to grow, analysts expect worldwide demand will more than double by 2024
Some of the largest lithium mining companies have grown in stature in recent years, as interest in the silvery-white metal grows in tandem with demand for the electric vehicles and consumer electronics whose rechargeable batteries it powers.
But as well as its use in lithium-ion batteries, the highly-reactive and flammable alkali mineral – sometimes referred to as “white gold” – is also used in ceramics and glass, lubricating greases, polymer production, and air treatment.
According to the latest figures from the US Geological Survey (USGS), global lithium production in 2019 stood at 77,000 tonnes.
With battery manufacturing expected to accelerate over the coming years, particularly as electric vehicles become more prevalent in key markets seeking to decarbonise, interest in the metal will continue to grow, and analysts expect worldwide demand will more than double by 2024.
Here, NS Energy profiles the top five largest lithium mining companies in the world.
Top five largest lithium mining companies in the world
1. Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium
Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium, which was founded in 2000, is the world’s largest lithium mining company with a market capitalisation of $27.38bn. It brought in $767.5m in revenue in 2019.
Although headquartered in Xinyu, China, the firm also holds lithium resources in Australia, Argentina and Mexico.
It claims to be the only company in the industry that has the commercial-scale technologies to extract lithium from brine, ore and recycled materials.
Gangfeng is the largest lithium metal producer in the world, while its lithium compound capacity ranks third worldwide and first in China.
Albemarle is a fine chemical manufacturing company based in North Carolina, US, and it operates three divisions – lithium, bromine specialties and catalysts.
Founded in 1994, the firm has grown to establish itself as the second-largest lithium miner in the world with a market capitalisation of $16.73bn as well as bringing in $3.59bn in revenue in 2019.
The company, which has operations in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia, is also the largest provider of lithium for electric vehicle batteries.
3. Tianqi Lithium
Tianqi Lithium, which was founded in 1995, is the third-largest lithium miner with a market capitalisation of $11.79bn. Based in Chengdu, China, the firm also raked in $748m in revenue in 2019.
The company claims to hold “world-leading positions” in its major businesses of lithium resource investment, lithium concentrates extraction and the production of advanced lithium speciality compounds.
With resource and production assets in Australia, Chile and China, Tiangi is believed to have controlled as much as 46% of global lithium production in 2018.
4. Sociedad Química y Minera
With a market capitalisation of $6.38bn, Sociedad Química y Minera (SQM) is the fourth-largest lithium miner in the world.
Based in Santiago, Chile, the chemical company, which supplies iodine, lithium, and other industrial chemicals, brought in $1.86m in revenue in 2019.
SQM was founded in 1968 and produces lithium carbonate in its Salar del Carmen plant, close to Antofagasta, Chile. It uses the lithium carbonate from the plant to produce lithium hydroxide – which is used in batteries and colorants.
5. Mineral Resources Limited
Mineral Resources was founded in 1993 and is the fifth-largest lithium mining company in the world with a market capitalisation of $5.66bn. It also raked in $1.16bn in revenue in 2019.
The West Australian-headquartered firm’s operations include open-pit mining of iron ore and lithium, as well as lithium hydroxide processing.
It produces lithium in Australia out of Mt Marion, located in the Goldfields, and Wodgina, in the Pilbara region.
The Mt Marion mine was initially designed to produce 206,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate per year, but a current upgrade project is underway to increase production to 450,000 tonnes of all in 6% spodumene concentrate a year.