Electric car charger

Lithium

Lithium is an essential ingredient in lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric cars, as well as rechargeable power for laptops, phones and other devices. It is the lightest of all metals, making it well suited for use in everything from pacemakers to jets.

Lithium does not occur on its own in nature but is found combined with other minerals. At our Jadar project, we discovered lithium in a new mineral in the Jadar Valley in Serbia, now known as jadarite.

Lithium is part of our portfolio of materials essential to a low-carbon future. Lithium is a key element needed for low-carbon technologies including the electrification of transport, large-scale batteries and energy storage. Double digit growth in lithium demand is forecast over the next decade.

Our lithium products

We source our battery-grade lithium in the US from nearly a century’s worth of mining waste rock at our Boron operations in California.

Our process involves roasting and leaching waste rock to recover lithium. Since it involves separating lithium from waste rock that has already been mined, this breakthrough process is a more sustainable alternative to other sources of lithium supply. 

Our demonstration plant in California has a design capacity of 10 tonnes per year of battery grade lithium. Priorities in 2021 include optimizing the process to inform our feasibility assessment for progressing to a commercial scale plant. This plant would have an initial capacity of at least 5,000 tonnes per year of lithium, or enough to make batteries for approximately 70,000 electric vehicles.

We produce battery grade lithium carbonate that meets the strict quality assurance standards required by the electric vehicle industry.

Boron from the air
Boron from the air

Lithium sales contact

David Petitjean

E: david.petitjean@riotinto.com

W: https://lithium.borax.com

Without lithium ion batteries you won’t have rapid mass adoption of electric vehicles or energy storage. And without the lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite anode and manganese supply chains to feed these battery plants, you won’t have lithium ion batteries.”

- Simon Moores, Managing Director, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

Jadar: a future source

The Jadar lithium-borates project in western Serbia is one of the largest greenfield lithium projects in the world. Once in production, Jadar is expected to be the largest source of European lithium supply for at least the next 15 years.

The project is expected to produce approximately 58,000 tonnes1 of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate each year, which exceeds 99.5% purity. The final product will then be tested and assessed by cathode producers that supply lithium to battery producers and electric vehicle manufacturers.

In July 2021, we committed a US$2.4 billion investment in Jadar’s development, marking our commitment to supporting Serbia as a leading lithium supplier. The next steps for the project are the granting of an exploitation licence by the Government of Serbia and receipt of regulatory approvals. This includes approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies, which will be made available to the public for comment. The EIA is required for the construction permit, with construction currently targeted to commence in 2022.

The market fundamentals for battery grade lithium carbonate are strong, with projected double-digit demand growth. As one of the world’s largest new greenfield lithium projects, on the doorstep of Europe, Jadar will be well placed to meet this demand.

We recognise that in progressing this project, we must listen to and respect the views of all stakeholders. We are committed to upholding the highest environmental standards and building sustainable futures for the communities we operate in, working closely with the local community, the Government of Serbia and civil society.

1 This production target was previously reported at 55,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium carbonate in a release to the ASX dated 10 December 2020, “Rio Tinto declares maiden Ore Reserve at Jadar”. All material assumptions underpinning the production target continue to apply and have not materially changed.

The new mineral, jadarite

Lithium

A Material for the Future

A vital component for clean technologies such as electric vehicles and battery storage, lithium will play an essential role in the transition to a low carbon economy. Double digit growth in lithium demand is forecast over the next decade.

Partnerships across the value chain

Partnerships and collaboration are essential to bringing lithium from mine to market. For example, in June 2021 we announced a partnership with InoBat, a European battery technology and manufacturing company, to accelerate the establishment of a “cradle to cradle” battery manufacturing and recycling value chain in Serbia. The partnership will help us share information and knowledge on lithium processing, recycling and technologies for the next generation of batteries.

Through our membership of the European Battery Alliance and the European Raw Materials Alliance, we also support industry-wide initiatives aimed at building a competitive, sustainable and innovative value chain in Europe.

  • Batteries
    Powering everyday life
    Lithium is a key component in the batteries that power your smart phone, electric vehicle and gaming controller. 
  • Battery storage
    Helping to store clean energy
    Lithium is used in batteries to store the power generated from wind turbines and solar photovoltaic cells.
  • Recycling bin
    Cradle to cradle recycling
    According to Canadian Mining, around 95% of the cobalt, lithium and graphite in batteries can be reused. We have formed a partnership with InoBat to accelerate the establishment of a “cradle to cradle” battery manufacturing and recycling value chain in Serbia.
  • Glazes
    Brightening up our world
    Used in ceramic glazes, lithium can improve viscosity, improve transparency, increase ceramic strength and even brighten up the colours of the glazes. 

Lithium download (Serbian)