According to the recent United States Geologic Survey, top producing countries for lithium last year were Chile with 7,400 tonnes; Australia 4,400 tonnes; China 2,300 tonnes; and Argentina 2,200 tonnes, with worldwide estimates totaling 18,000 tonnes.
Interest and demand in lithium minerals has grown significantly, driven by the increased importance and production of lithium-ion (‘li-ion’) batteries as the next generation power source. Senior industry executives predict lithium chemicals, excluding automotive battery potential, is estimated to maintain continued 3-5% annual growth over the next ten years.
Demand for lithium-powered electric vehicles is expected to increase fivefold by 2012, which will undoubtedly increase lithium demand well over the 5% annual growth mark. However, no one is sure how large the hybrid automobile market may become.
Even though mid to long term fundamentals looked strong, 2009 was a tough year for lithium supply and production. The worldwide estimates for lithium for 2009 totaled 18,000 tonnes.
These totals were down from the previous year’s production of 25,400 tonnes in 2008, reflecting a tough environment for producers as a result of the global financial crisis.
Market conditions deteriorated for lithium-based products in 2009 and 2010. Sales volumes for the major lithium producers were reported to be down between 15 percent and 40 percent by the end of 2009. Consumption by lithium end-use markets for batteries, ceramics and glass, grease and pharmaceuticals all declined in 2009 and 2010 due to the weak economy.
Uncertain Supply and Producer Opportunities:
In the US, the impact of President Obama’s decisions to support the US economy and put one million new plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles in service by 2015 will have a positive impact on the lithium and the li-ion battery industry.
Lithium supply is controlled by a small number of well-established companies and therefore likely to be stable, but it is – like oil – a diminishing resource. Some industry observers are looking further ahead to an oil-free future where all automobiles will have been replaced by electric vehicles, and they see issues ahead due to a squeeze on lithium supply.
Lithium reserves, it is claimed, will be unable to support the demands of the production of up to 60 million electric vehicles a year, with the potential appearance of political and economic tensions around availability, control and supply, which could look very similar to those which currently surround oil. These eventualities would likely cause significant price increases for lithium and increase the market profile of existing lithium producers as they strive to meet demand.
Lithium is used for batteries, specialty glass, lubricants, pharmaceuticals and lithium alloys. Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries have become the rechargeable battery of choice in cell phones, computers, hybrid-electric cars and electric cars. Manufacturers from GM and Ford to Toyota and Mercedes-Benz have all announced plans to build Li-ion battery electric cars.
Demand for lithium-powered vehicles is expected to increase fivefold by 2012. The domestic automotive industry must secure a lithium source to supply the next generation of hybrid-electric and electric vehicles. Over 60% of cell phones and 90% of laptops use lithium batteries. The worldwide market for lithium batteries is estimated at over US$4 billion per year.
Gryphon Resources Inc. trades on the OTC-BB and Pink Sheets under the symbol GRYO. The Company was incorporated in Nevada in 2006 and has been involved in mineral exploration activities since inception. In 2010, Gryphon acquired the rights to 11 exploration properties in south-eastern Arizona, USA and is currently developing exploration plans for these properties. In November, 2010, Gryphon added to its portfolio of exploration rights by entering a Letter of Intent to acquire the Cruce Property in south-central Arizona.