Lithium is - as the name indicates - the key element of all lithium-ion batteries. As it turns out, this lightest metal is sourced in volume from just a few countries.
According to the U.S. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, some 91% of all lithium comes from Australia (44%), Chile (34%), and Argentina (13%) - data for the year 2017.
The Lithium element itself is one of the most abundant globally, but the viability of extraction makes a few markets especially favorable. If anything happens, the world can switch to lithium from other countries after investing in new facilities, which gives us peace of mind about the future. In the future, also recycling will become an important source of lithium.
Cobalt, another key cathode material - at least in 2017 - was sourced at 59% from the Congo, although it could've change by now as many companies were not happy about the environmental and humanitarian aspects of local mines.
Natural graphite comes to batteries at 67% from China. Some elements like nickel or manganese are more evenly distributed.
Some key materials used for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries are lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and natural graphite, which come from more than 30 different countries. In 2017, Australia, Chile, and Argentina produced 91% of all lithium while the rest of the world supplied the remaining 9%. The Democratic Republic of Congo produced 59% of the world’s cobalt. Other lithium-ion battery materials, such as nickel, have a more even distribution of production throughout the world. Learn more about U.S. efforts in lithium here.
Material Total Tons
Country Share of
Lithium 43,000 Australia 44% Chile 34% Argentina 13% Rest of World 9% Cobalt 110,000 Democratic Republic of Congo 59% Russia 5% Australia 5% Rest of World 31% Nickel 2.1 million Philippines 11% Canada 10% Russia 9% Australia 9% Rest of the World 61% Manganese 16 million South Africa 33% China 16% Australia 14% Rest of the World 37% Natural graphite 1.2 million China 67% India 13% Brazil 8% Rest of the World 12%
Source: Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center, “Are there enough materials to cover li-ion batteries?” August 15, 2018.