Lithium Reserves by Country

Chile isn't the world's top lithium producer, but it holds the largest reserves of the metal by far.


Those interested in the lithium sector are often curious about which countries produce the most of the metal. Why? Because many major lithium-producing countries are home to a lot of lithium companies.

What investors may not think to consider are lithium reserves by country. While many of the world’s top lithium-producing countries also hold significant reserves of the metal, some countries produce little lithium but have very large reserves. Investors may want to be aware of this second group of countries, as they could eventually become lithium powerhouses.

On that note, here’s an overview of lithium reserves by country, with a focus on the four countries that hold the most lithium. Lithium reserves by country data is based on the most recent information from the US Geological Survey (USGS).

1. Chile

Lithium reserves: 7,500,000 MT

Chile was second-biggest producer of lithium last year at 12,000 MT, but has the most lithium reserves in the world by a large amount.

The country reportedly holds most of the world’s “economically extractable” lithium reserves, while its Salar de Atacama hosts approximately 37 percent of the world’s lithium reserve base. SQM (NSYE:SQM) is a top lithium producer in Chile, and it ramped up its production by 20 percent in 2016.

Albemarle (NYSE:ALB) is another top lithium producer in Chile, and last year the Chilean government granted it permission to increase its lithium brine production.

2. China

Lithium reserves: 3,200,000 MT

China holds lithium reserves of 3,200,000 MT, but last year it produced only 2,000 MT of the metal. Currently the Asian nation imports most of the lithium it needs from Australia.

That said, the USGS notes that China is looking to expand its lithium output. The capacity of its lithium-ion battery megafactories is expected to grow by 51 percent between now and 2020, and by that time the country will also account for 62 percent of global lithium-ion battery production.

3. Argentina

Lithium reserves: 2,00,000 MT

Argentina is the third-largest lithium producer in the world, and last year it put out 5,700 MT of the metal. It also has the third-largest lithium reserves in the world at 2,000,000 MT. Putting that into perspective, the Financial Post notes that the country has enough lithium reserves to feed global demand for roughly 300 years.

It’s also worth noting that Chile, Argentina and Bolivia comprise the “lithium triangle,” which hosts more than half of the world’s lithium reserves.

4. Australia

Lithium reserves: 1,600,000 MT

Interestingly, while Australia was the largest lithium-producing country in the world in 2016, it is fourth in terms of reserves.

The country is home to the Greenbushes lithium project, which is operated by Talison Lithium, a subsidiary jointly owned by the Tianqi Group and Albemarle. The project is known as the longest continuously operating mining area, having been in operation for over 25 years.

Other lithium reserves by country

While Chile, China, Argentina and Australia are home to the world’s highest lithium reserves, other countries also hold significant amounts of the metal. Here’s a quick look at the other countries:

  • Portugal — 60,000 MT
  • Brazil — 48,000 MT
  • United States — 38,000 MT
  • Zimbabwe — 23,000 MT

Overall, total worldwide lithium reserves stand 14,000,000 MT. If the metal continue to be as hot a commodity as it is today, it appears there will be adequate supply for some time to come.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Jocelyn Aspa, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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