Iran discovered world’s second-largest lithium deposit

Iranian officials claimed to have found a deposit containing 8.5 million metric tons of lithium ore in the country’s Hamedan Province. Lithium is a crucial raw material for the production of batteries, used in all kinds of electronic devices, from mobile phones to EVs.

A senior official in the Iranian Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade (MIMT) said on Monday that a deposit located in the western province of Hamedan contains some 8.5 million metric tons of lithium ore.

According to Ebrahimali Molabeigi, who leads MIMT’s exploration department, the discovery was made in western province of Hamedan and more such lithium ore deposits are expected to be discovered soon.

If true, this discovery would be a major boost for Iran, whose economy has suffered under US sanctions and embargoes for decades. Given lithium’s salience in making batteries, anytransition away from fossil fuels is expected to heavily rely on lithium. This is Iran’s first lithium find.

According to the US Geological Survey, the world’s largest identified lithium resources (not counting Iran) are as follows: Bolivia, 21 million tons; Argentina, 20 million tons; Chile, 11 million tons; Australia, 7.9 million tons; China, 6.8 million tons. India recently established inferred lithium resources of 5.9 million tons in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The importance of lithium in today’s world

Lithium is ubiquitous in modern life, found in all kinds of electronic devices, from mobile phones to EVs – basically, anything that requires a rechargeable battery.

A battery is made up of an anode, cathode, separator, electrolyte, and two current collectors (positive and negative).

Lithium-ion batteries use aqueous electrolyte solutions, where ions transfer to and fro between the anode (negative electrode generally made of graphite) and cathode (positive electrode made of lithium), triggering the recharge and discharge of electrons.

Even promising alternatives to the lithium-ion batteries, such as QuantumScape Corp’s solid-state lithium-metal battery, continue to use lithium. This is primarily due to Lithium’s low weight as compared to other metals (such as nickel, used in traditional batteries) as well as its superior electrochemical potential.

Lithium has become especially valuable in the context of increasing climate concerns with the internal combustion engine and the rise of electric vehicles (EV) as an alternative. Currently, all EVs use lithium in their battery packs with demand set to rise exponentially over the coming decades.

A 2020 World Bank reporton clean energy transition estimates that the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies.