Lithium is an element in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries. As the lightest of all metals, its high electrochemical potential is a valuable component of high energy density rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Deemed a critical mineral by governments, sources of lithium form a key consideration in the transition to a low-carbon economy and the adoption of electric vehicles. The two main conventional sources of lithium are brines and hard rock mining of granitic pegmatites. Shallow aquifer brines have been historically developed utilizing evaporation ponds (salars), which have a significant environmental impact, and an extended evaporation period that limits production. Hard rock mining is a carbon-intensive process involving open pit mining, which has significant environmental and social impacts.
Emerging technologies such as DLE (Direct Lithium Extraction) have opened opportunities for lithium brine extraction from deeper subsurface reservoirs, which can utilize existing oil and gas wells, geothermal developments or other subsurface brine sources in a more economical and environmentally sustainable way. These new extraction technologies have opened the production of lithium to many more countries, enabling a more global supply chain, enhancing the transition to a circular economy and securing a greater supply of lithium for battery production. Recent advancements in DLE technology have facilitated the upgrading and processing capabilities from raw lithium to lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) and lithium hydroxide (LiOH), which are the base elements required for input to high-quality battery manufacturing and form the industry standards for pricing and trading.