Title    •    Abstract      •       Introduction      •         Lithium Sources        •         Maj. Changes

Production Costs      •        Country Review         •         Reserves & Resource Summary

Tables       •       References





The two North Carolina operations closed with the development of lower cost sources in Chile but could, should a massive demand materialize and prices rise as a result, be reactivated.

Based on figures used in the Lithium Panel report and later reserve data it is estimated, very approximately, that the FMC and former Foote operations contained reserves of 80,000 and 150,000 tonnes Li respectively at the time both operations were closed.

The Panel, based principally on Kesler’s very extensive work along the 48km long belt  estimated a potential recoverable resource down to a depth of 1,500 metres of 375 million tonnes of ore at a grade typical of the area thus containing 2.6 million tonnes Li.

Other known pegmatite sources are small.

Continental Brines:

The Panel report listed tonnages for three brines – at Searles Lake, California, at Silver Peak, Nevada and the Great Salt Lake, Utah. 

At Searles Lake lithium was recovered as a by-product from the commercial production of soda ash, potash and borax.  The lithium was essentially a contaminant and with a process modification production ceased in 1978.   It is highly improbable that lithium recovery will take place in the future.  Silver Peak commenced production in the 1960’s pumping brines varying from 100 to 300 ppm Li.   It continues to operate and the remaining economic reserves are estimated at 40,000 tonnes Li.

In the Great Salt Lake the overall tonnage of contained lithium approximates to 520,000 tonnes  but the grade is very much lower than other brines considered as potential reserves in this report.

Geothermal Brines: 

At the Salton Sea KGRA in southern California a brine with very high concentrations of potash, lithium, boron, zinc and lead is used to produce 288 megawatts of electric power.

A 30,000 tpa high grade zinc plant based on the brine has experienced technical problems but the brine also grades about 200 ppm Li and the throughput contains approximately 16,000 tpa Li. (William Bourcier, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, personal communication).  Earlier (Duyvestein, 1992) calculated a similar figure of approximately 11,900 short tons of carbonate per 50 MW of capacity.

To put a reserve tonnage to the annual rate a 20 year life is assumed to give a figure of 316,000 tonnes Li.

There are other sites in the area with high lithium values.

Further north at the Mammoth Lakes geothermal field with a much lower lithium concentration, Lawrence Livermore Labs have a current project aimed at silica recovery which would be a first step in recovering lithium from brines of this nature

Oilfield Brines:

Collins (1978) estimated a possible reserve of 0.75 million tonnes of Li in one tenth of the area underlain by the Smackover Formation which extends through North Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, east Texas and Arkansas. Other lithium-containing brines exist in the Paradox Basin, Utah.


At the McDermitt Caldera on the Oregon/Nevada border, Western Uranium Corporation are re-examining seven lenses of hectorite clay originally drilled by Chevron Resources.

Drilling at the most southerly site, the PCD lens, is confirming the tonnage and grade indicated by Chevron.  This lens has a length of about 2 kms,  a width of approximately one kilometer and a thickness of 100 metres under shallow overburden.  Higher grade portions of the deposit grade over 0.35%  Li and the cut off used in the reserve calculation is 0.275% Li.

Chevron reported that the total resource contained 23.9 billion lbs of carbonate – 2 million tonnes of Li and test work on recovery methods is currently being undertaken.

Hectorites are known to occur elsewhere in the western United States but no reserve data exist.



The underground mining operation formerly owned by the Sullivan Mining Group  located near Barraute, Quebec, supplied spodumene concentrate to Lithium Corporation of America to help satisfy the US Atomic Energy Commission’s  lithium hydroxide purchasing contract in the 1950’s.

Subsequently, the company produced a limited range of lithium chemicals but with the ending of the USAEC contract prices had plummeted.  The deposit has recently been acquired by Black Pearl Minerals.  Reserves are stated to total approximately 90,000 tonnes Li.

Cabot Corp’s underground mine at Bernic Lake, was originally developed as a tantalite operation but, now also produces 20,000 (?) tpa of lithium concentrates for direct usage in the glass and  glass ceramic industry.  The zoned pegmatite also hosts the world’s largest reserve of pollucite from which it produces a range of cesium chemicals.

Current reserves (Gary Poetschke, personal communication) total 18, 600 tonnes Li.

Numerous other pegmatites have been partly explored in Quebec, Manitoba and  Ontario including  Snow Lake (26,000 tonnes Li), La Motte (23,000 tonnes Li), Separation Rapids (56,000 tonnes Li), Wekusko  Lake (28,000 tonnes Li) and Sirmac Lake (3,000 tonnes Li) – a total of 147,000 tonnes.



Prior to the imposition by the United Nations of economic sanctions against Rhodesia, Bikita Minerals was the dominant source of lithium minerals for direct use in glass, glass ceramics and enamels because of the low iron content of the minerals.

The deposit has an exceptionally high grade and comprises a classic zoned pegmatite at its southern end passing northwards into a complex mixture of petalite, quartz-spodumene intergrowth and small quantities of eucryptite.  The lepidolite in the zoned section provided the feed for the production of about 30% of the United States Atomic Energy Commission’s lithium hydroxide stockpile.  The deposit was initially evaluated on the basis that products would be hand-picked at +75mm and +25mm so all ore with  smaller crystal sizes were ignored.  Thus long sections of the strike length of the main pegmatite and a parallel spodumene  pegmatite were not evaluated.  Currently, the different minerals are separated by a heavy medium system with stockpiles of undersized material from earlier picking as the principal source.

Proved, probable and possible resources (grading 1.4% Li) were estimated by the Panel at 56,700 tonnes Li.

There is considerable upside potential in this figure and numerous petalite-containing pegmatites are known in Zimbabwe and there is no published data on reserves at the large Kamitivi tin-spodumene deposit located in the northwest of the country.



The largest known lithium-containing pegmatites occur in the vicinity of Manono.  Each of a pair has a length of  5,000 metres and a width of approximately 400 metres.  The weathered zone has been worked for tin and columbite .

Assuming a depth of only 50 metres the pegmatites could contain 2.3 million tonnes of Li.



The Greenbushes pegmatite was first mined for tin and tantalite in the late 1880’s with operations restricted to the weathered surface material.  Deeper exploration a century later revealed the presence of spodumene. 

The operation, which has changed ownership many times is now owned by Talison Minerals and is the world’s largest producer of low-iron content spodumene concentrates at a variety of grades.  Concentrates,

until recently at least, are also shipped to China for lithium chemical production there although the company’s own efforts to produce chemicals in the 1970’s failed.

The pegmatite has a strike length of 3 kms and has not been fully explored.  The Sons of Gwalia Annual Report for 2003 stated proved, probable and possible reserves of 223,000 tonnes Li.


At Mount Marion, also in Western Australia, Roberts (2004) reported on a group of deposits with total reserves of 19,800 tonnes Li.

Galaxy Resources is currently undertaking an evaluation of a spodumene deposit at Mount Catlin near Ravensthorpe.  The company hopes to come on stream with lithium carbonate production in 2010 from reserves of 20,000 tonnes of lithium.

Queensland Gold & Minerals is currently exploring for pegmatites near Georgetown in Queensland.



The Koralpa deposit located 20 km west of Wolfsburg in Austria, has been explored to a depth of 450 metres and contains approximately 100,000 tonnes Li.

In Finland, the Larritta deposit contains sufficient ore to allow the production of 6,000 tpa carbonate for 15 years with plant construction scheduled for 2008.  The reserve is roughly estimated at 14,000 tonnes Li. The property is owned by Keliber Resources in which Nordic Resources has a 60% interest.



Most pegmatites in Russia are tantalite–containing and Roskill Information Services lists the following larger ones.  None appears to be mined currently.


Together they could contain very approximately 1,000,000 tonnes lithium.



Lithium bearing pegmatites occur in Minas Gerais and Ceara.  Tonnages are modest and Ramos (2001) reported reserves of 85,000 tonnes Li.

Continental Brines:

The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, at an altitude of 3,650 metres covers an area of 9,000 Km2.  Unlike the major lithium containing salares in Chile and Argentina it is completely flat due to annual flooding.

Ballivian and Risacher (1981) reported on brine grades of 0.035% Li and 0.72%K.  Grades are highest in the southeastern portion of the salar.  They calculated total lithium reserves as 5,500,000 tonnes.

The magnesium/lithium ratio is high at 22/1.

Other salares, also found as the result of shrinkage by evaporation from a Lake Minchin of Pleistocene age, include the large salares of Emprexa and Coiposa with spot samples grading up to 370 and 580 ppm Li



Continental Brines:

After failing to negotiate a satisfactory agreement with the Bolivian Government regarding the possible development of the Salar de Uyuni, FMC, in 1995, negotiated rights to the Salar de Hombre Muerto in Argentina.

The salar, with a salt nucleus covering 280km2 but at an altitude of over 4,000 metres has a relatively low lithium content but with a very low concentration of “impurities”, in particular an exceptionally low magnesium/lithium ratio of only 1.37/1.

The company opted for a proprietary recovery technique involving selective absorption from in-situ brine.  There were major capital and operating cost over-runs and carbonate production was suspended for a few years in the early 2000’s although chloride production continued.  The company became reliant upon Chile’s SQM for carbonate but this contract is thought to have expired in 2007.

The brine grades 0.062% Li and proved and probable reserves to a depth of 70m total 850,000 tonnes.

Admiralty Resources, an Australian company plans to commence production of carbonate, chloride and hydroxide in 2008 from the Salar de Rincon.  The company will also produce potash at an initial rate of about 60,000 tpa.

The salar is located at an altitude of 3,740 metres.  The salt nucleus covers 280km2 and the brine grades 0.033%Li and 0.624%K.  The Mg/Li ratio is about 8.6/1.

Proved and probable insitu reserves are 1,860,000 tonnes Li.

Numerous other salares exist in the Argentinian altiplano and these are listed below –


The extent to which these salares have been studied is not known.  For comparative purposes, Rincon concentrations (expressed as mg/lt) ranged from 370 to 456.


Continental Brines:

The Salar de Atacama, at an altitude of 2,300 metres, is located approximately 200 kms inland from the Pacific coast.  The basin covers an area of about 3,000 km2 with a salt nucleus covering 1,400 km2.  At the northern end of the nucleus a drill hole was still in salt when terminated at 1,000 metres.

The Salar was first developed by Foote Minerals in partnership with CORFO, a Government agency, in 1984.  Subsequently CORFO sold its interest to Foote and later Foote was acquired by Cyprus Minerals then by Chemetall and finally by Rockwood Holdings.

To the writers knowledge the reserve data were never published but are estimated at 500,000 tonnes Li prior to the commencement of production.  The company co-produces about 80,000 tpa of potassium chloride.

In 1986, Amax Exploration together with a Chilean partner reached an agreement with CORFO regarding the possible development of much of the rest of the salar but their rights were later acquired by Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM) a major producer of nitrates and iodine.

The initial reserves, over 790km2, were calculated at 26.0 million tonnes of potassium and 1.8 million tonnes of lithium at an average grade of 0.18%Li.  These were in respect of the uppermost 40 metres of the aquifer.

SQM developed the project in two phases.  The first in the area of highest grades of potassium for the production of potassium chloride and lithium, the second in an area of high sulphate values from which they recover potassium sulphate and boric acid.  Lithium, currently, is recovered only from the more southerly well field/solar pond system although the feed grade at the northern location, at about 0.11% Li is considerably higher than those at the Argentinian salares.

Large quantities of lithium are returned to the salar as the quantities of brine pumped to produce in excess of 800,000 tpa of the two potash products contain much more lithium than the installed lithium pond and plant capacity.

In 2008 SQM (personal communication) revised the reserve estimate for its block of claims resulting from the inclusion of brine to a depth of 200 metres.  This new estimate is for 77.2 million tonnes of  potassium and 6.0 million tonnes Li.

The total reserves of the Salar de Atacama are unknown.  In addition to the tonnages beneath the Rockwood and SQM mining claims covering 957km2, there are “buffer zones” between the properties covering approximately 100 km2 and there are unclaimed areas to the north of the SQM claims with lithium values in excess of those in the Argentinian salares.  A tentative total for these other areas is 400,000 tonnes Li taking the total to 6.9 million tonnes.

Other Chilean salares includingPedernales, Punta Negra, Maricunga and Incahuasi, are lithium containing.


Changing names and ownerships together with differing reserve estimates for the same deposits by different authorities reduce the reliabilities of the estimates contained in this paper.  Hopefully, a more accurate estimate will emerge in time.


Major known pegmatites are Jiajika now owned by Sichuan Mineral Industry (480,000 Li), Maerkang (reserves variously reported at 80,000 and 225,000 tonnes Li) owned by Sichuan Ni and Co, , Daoxian (125,000 tonnes) and Lushi (9,000 tonnes) owned by Sterling Group Ventures and Sichuan Dexin’s mine at Jumehuan (50,000 tonnes).  Reserve information in respect of other deposits including Ningdu, Kokotay is not available.

A conservative estimate of Chinese pegmatite reserves in 750,000 tonnes and many of these sources provide feed for chemical production.

Continental Brines:

Located in the Qaidam Basin in Qinghai Province are approximately 33 saline lakes.  The first to be developed was Chaeran, one of a complex of nine lakes and is now the principal source of potash in China. 

The company, Qinghai Salt Lake Potash Co. has recently announced plans to recover lithium from the bitterns from the potash operation.  The grade and tonnage of the bitterns are not known.  Production of lithium from other lakes in the area was delayed because of the technical problems associated with brines with magnesium/lithium ratios as high as between 40 and 60/1.  However, CITIC is now coming on stream at the Taijanaier Lakes where reserves are stated to total 940,000 tonnes Li.

Figures as high as 3.3 million tonnes of lithium have been quoted for the reserves of the Qaidam Basin as a whole but specific reserve data is lacking.

A larger number of saline lakes exist on the Tibetan Plateau.

At Zhabuye (also known as Chabyer?) Salt Lake production started in 2005 from a brine grading 0.12%Li.  The company claims a reserve of 1.53 million tonnes Li (8.3 million tonnes of carbonate) but other sources say that the tonnage is significantly lower.

Sterling Group Ventures estimate reserves at Dangxiongscuo (DXC) Salt Lake, which they intend developing as 170,000 tonnes Li.

A total brine reserve of 2.6 million tonnes is estimated for China but it seems probable that this figure could increase substantially with more information.