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Research and Investment Value of China’s Lithium Carbonate Industry, 2013-2017

  • May 2013
  • -
  • Huidian Research
  • -
  • 58 pages

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Lithium is widely used in the battery industry, ceramic industry, glass industry, aluminum industry, lubricants, refrigerants, nuclear industry and the photovoltaic industry, as well as some other emerging industries. Lithium carbonate is a basic material for the production of secondary lithium salt and lithium metal, therefore, lithium carbonate is the most important lithium product, and other lithium products are the downstream products of lithium carbonate basically.

According to the report of USGS (United States Geological Survey) in 2012, the global proven lithium resources volume was 33.36 million tons, and the lithium reserves reached 13 million tons (calculate by lithium metal volume).

Currently, the concentration ratio of global lithium industry is very high, and the production capacity is mainly concentrated in SQM (Chile), FMC (the United States) and Chemetall (Germany). In 2011, the market share of these three corporations was about 75% in global lithium product market, and this market share of China was about 24%. In 2011, the global output was 125,000 tons.

As for the situation in recent years, the production capacity expansion of global lithium carbonate industry was slowed down, and the progress of salt lake expansion and lithium extraction from Australian ores of the industrial giants was slower than the expectation.

Among the world’s top three lithium carbonate suppliers, only Chemetall, which is owned by Rockwood, plans to expand the production capacity from 22,000 tons to 50,000 tons by 2014. And China’s salt lake lithium extraction technology is not mature enough, so the production capacity expansion is not optimistic. The floods in South America will affect the production of the enterprises which are engaged in the salt lake lithium extraction, which may result in output decline; and the output decline of lithium which was extracted from salt lake will intensify the tension pattern of supply and demand in the global lithium carbonate industry; such situation will promote the further price rising of lithium carbonate.

China’s lithium carbonate production is mainly concentrated in Jiangxi, Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, and Sichuan. Sichuan is rich in lithium ore resources, and mainly concentrated in Ganzi and Aba, accounting for more than 52% of the total national lithium ore resources.

In 2011, China’s total lithium carbonate output was about 30,000 tons, which was essentially flat compared with 2010. In the same year, some enterprises conducted technological reformation to the brine lithium extraction production lines, so the output declined largely compared with last year, but the output of lithium which was extracted from ores increased by over 20%. In 2012, China’s total lithium carbonate output was about 35,000 tons, increased by about 16.6% over 2011.

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