Lithium

Symbol: Li
Category: Alkali metal
Atomic number:  3
Atomic weight: 6.941

 

Physical Properties:

State:  solid
Melting Point: 453.69 K (180.54˚C)
Boiling Point: 1615 K (1342˚C)

 

Energy Properties:

Heat of fusion: 3.00 kJ mol-1
Molar heat capacity: 24.860 kJ mol-1 Heat of vaporization: 147.1 kJ mol-1

Atomic properties:

Oxidation states: +1,-1 (strongly basic oxide) Electronegativity: 0.98 Pauling Scale
Van der waals radius: 182 pm Atomic radius: 152 pm
Covalent radius: 128±7 pm

What is lithium?

Lithium is the lightest known metal on the periodic table. It is a slivery-white alkali metal. Lithium is a highly reactive and flammable metal; as such it is typically stored in mineral oil. When lithium is exposed to air, it corrodes quickly to a dull silvery gray then black tarnish.

What is lithium used for?

Lithium is a metal with a variety of uses. Its main compound is lithium hydroxide, whose carbonate can be used in the pottery industry and as an additive in antidepressant medication. Because of lithium’s high electrochemical potential, lithium is used in lithium-ion batteries. Lithium can also be alloyed with several metals, such as aluminum, copper, manganese and cadmium to make lightweight metals for aircrafts.

Where is lithium found?
Lithium is the 25th most abundant element on the earth’s crust. Due to its high reactivity, lithium is not found free in nature. Lithium is found as a minor part of igneous rocks, primarily granite. The most abundant source of lithium containing minerals is granitic pegmatites, followed by spodumene and petalite as providing commercially viable sources. Lithium is also found in very low concentrations in brines. Hectorite clay is a newly discovered source of lithium, with only one active deposit located in the United States.

Lithium is also found in abundance in seawater as well as in trace amounts in plants, plankton and invertebrates.

Where are the world class lithium deposits?

Many of the largest lithium deposits are found in South America. Bolivia hosts the Salar de Uyuni salt flat lithium deposit, which contains 5.4 million tonnes of lithium making it the world’s largest deposit. The salt crust covers a pool of lithium-rich brine which contains somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. However, there currently is no mining in the country.

Chile is home to the Salar de Atacama, a continental brine deposit that hosts approximately 27 percent of the world’s lithium. Sociedad Quimica Minera de Chile’s (NYSE:SQM) largest lithium brine mine currently in operation and Rockwood Holdings (MYSE:ROC) lithium production mines are located on the salar. Argentina has several continental brine lithium deposits which are considered to be world class. The Salar de Hombre Muerto, in Argentina is the base of operations for FMC Coproration’s (NYSE:FMC) world class lithium deposit.

Lithium is also found in large quantities in Nevada in the United State, Australia, and China. Afghanistan reportedly hosts large lithium deposits similar to those found in Bolivia.

Future producers of lithium

Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY) is an advanced level developmental mining and chemical company focused on lithium and tantalum production. The company owns a hard rock spodumene lithium project in Western Australia called Mount Cattlin.

Lithium Americas Corp. (TSE:LAC) is a junior exploration company focused on the exploration for lithium, potassium, borax and other minerals in Argentina. As of March 15, the company had rights over approximately 146,821 hectares in five salt lakes in the Jujuy and Salta Provinces  with principal properties including a portion of two adjacent salt lakes, Cauchari and Olaroz, approximately 250 kilometers northwest of San Salvador and 100 kilometers east of the international border with Chile.

Rock Tech Lithium Inc. (CVE:RCK) is a Canadian-based resource company focused on acquiring, exploring and developing high-quality lithium and rare metals properties into sustainable and economic mines.

Western Lithium USA (TSE:WLC) is owns one of the largest known lithium resource located in northwestern Nevada. The company expects to start production in 2014.

International Lithium Corp. (CVE:ILC) a “Clean Tech” lithium resource developer with a global portfolio of lithium assets.

Rodinia Lithium Inc. (CVE:RM) is a Canadian mineral exploration company focused on lithium exploration and development in North and South America. The Company is also actively exploring the commercialization of a significant potash co-product that is recoverable through the lithium harvesting process.