Two type of deposits dominate. One is hard rock as found in Australia, where spodumene concentrates are produced and typically send to China for further processing. The other one is brine, mostly found in Chile and Argentina, but also in the US. China has both.
Consultant Roskill estimates 785,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent a year will be needed by 2025, amounting to a 26,000-tonne shortfall from anticipated supply, compared to 217,000 t of demand versus 227,000 tonnes of supply this year.
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence estimates that lithium carbonate prices will average US$13,000 a tonne over the 2017-2020 period from around $9,000 a tonne in 2015-2016. Demand for lithium hydroxide, preferred over carbonate as it allows greater battery capacity and longer life, is expected to grow at a faster pace. Benchmark Mineral intelligence predicts the price to average $18,000 a tonne between 2017-2020 against $14,000 in 2015-2016.
Lithium prices have extended gains even as new supply enters the market.