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The United States, Europe, Japan and China are competing fiercely, and a lithium war has begun!


It can cure mania and make nuclear bombs!

Lithium, the first metal element in the periodic table, has been different since it was discovered.

On January 27th, 1818, Jacob, a mineral exploration enthusiast? Bezelius recorded in his personal diary as follows: it is the lightest, with a density as low as 0.534g per cubic centimeter; It is the smallest, with a relative atomic mass of only 6.941; It is the most lively and easy to react with the outside world.

Jacob? Bezelius got inspiration from the stones and stones in Greek, and named this new metal lithium, with the element symbol Li.

As the lightest metal known at present, lithium will float up and burn whether in water or kerosene, so that chemists have to force it into vaseline oil or liquid paraffin.

When it was just discovered, people kept away from this shiny, white and flammable metal. It was not until decades later that the value of lithium gradually appeared.

In 1882, H? Hovestaclt found that the use of lithium in the glass industry can increase output, prolong the life of glass kilns, and avoid the pollution of boron and fluorine to the air.

Glass with lithium has many advantages. For example, blocking X-ray radiation, lithium containing glass is widely used in TVs in the era of kinescope to reduce the radiation to viewers; Another example is to significantly reduce water solubility.

Research has proved that each cup of hot water produced with ordinary glass contains about 1 / 10000 gram of glass, while the solubility of Lithium glass is about 1/100 of that of ordinary glass, and lithium glass basically achieves "insoluble".

If lithium is added to ceramics, the coefficient of thermal expansion can be reduced, that is, ceramic products containing lithium can withstand the sharp changes of heat and cold, the friction of mechanical washing and the erosion of detergent.

Lithium is also a key drug for the treatment of mania.

In 1948, John Cade, an Australian psychiatrist, used lithium in the treatment of 10 manic patients with dramatic success.

Without treatment, patients will experience endless fluctuations of mood from high to low. The suicide rate of untreated manic patients is 10-20 times that of the general population.

Fortunately, lithium carbonate made from lithium can reduce the suicide rate by 10 times. Now, lithium compounds have become the standard treatment for this mental disorder and one of the drugs that have been effective in the history of psychiatry, but the mechanism of lithium in this regard is still a mystery.

Lithium can also be used to make nuclear bombs.

The combustion of 1kg lithium can release 42998 kJ of heat, while the energy released by 1kg lithium through thermonuclear reaction is equivalent to the combustion of 20000 tons of high-quality coal.

In the Junggar Basin in Xinjiang, China, there is an area classified as a top state secret - the hoketohai mine. It is known as "hero mine" and "meritorious mine" because it provides lithium needed by * * * made in China.

lithium batteryIs overturning a century old industry

Lithium is best known for its application in the field of batteries.

Since the invention of "Leiden bottle" (a device for storing static electricity), it has been the unremitting pursuit of mankind to store electricity.

In 1860, g.plante invented lead-acid battery. After more than 150 years of development, lead-acid battery has gradually become an energy storage battery with mature technology, stable performance and low price. It is widely used in the fields of starting cars, emergency lighting, standby power supply and so on.

However, the short weight, volume and service life of lead-acid batteries are also very obvious, which also determines that it is difficult to become an ideal battery for small electronic equipment. If Apple mobile phone is equipped with a brick like lead-acid battery, it must be an unacceptable thing.

The environmental problems caused by the use of lead-acid batteries are also very obvious. So far, the waste lead-acid battery recycling industry is still in a disordered state, with the formal recovery rate of less than 30%. A large number of waste lead-acid batteries have also been disassembled and disposed at will, and more than 2.6 million tons of waste lead are produced every year. The random dumping of waste acid will seriously pollute the water and soil, and may also lead to lead poisoning, anemia, mental retardation of children and other major diseases.

In order to meet the needs of electronic equipment, nickel cadmium and nickel hydrogen batteries with smaller size and longer service life have been invented. Nickel cadmium and nickel hydrogen batteries have greatly improved the bulkiness of lead-acid batteries, and their capacity has also been greatly improved, but the disadvantages are also fatal - nickel cadmium batteries have a fatal "memory effect", that is, before charging, if the battery power is not completely discharged, the battery life will be shortened rapidly.

In addition, nickel cadmium batteries also have serious environmental hazards. Cadmium and its compounds are toxic. Cadmium poisoning can cause pharyngitis, cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, general pain, weakness, fever and other symptoms. In serious cases, it can lead to toxic pulmonary edema or chemical pneumonia, and cause death due to acute respiratory failure. Japan once caused "pain disease" by using water sources polluted by cadmium.

It can be said that neither lead-acid battery nor nickel chromium battery can completely solve the pain point of portable electronic device battery.

In 1990, hanxiaoping, the chief researcher of China energy network, first saw a laptop computer in the United States. The CPU of that computer was 386SX, and the price was more than 2000 dollars. The battery could only operate for 40 minutes, and it would be replaced with a new battery in less than a year. It would cost hundreds of dollars to replace a battery.

At that time, as a professional news photographer, Han Xiaoping's biggest headache was how to keep the flash light powered enough to complete the interview. Using NIMH energy storage batteries, a group of four rechargeable batteries can only guarantee the flash lighting of less than 36 films, and the price is very expensive and the service life is very short. In addition, there is a memory effect. You have to discharge before charging. It takes more than ten hours for a group of batteries to be charged with a discharge belt, which is very troublesome. Every time you go out for an interview, you should bring a lot of batteries and dry batteries for backup.

Today, lead-acid batteries and nickel cadmium batteries have long been kicked out of the battery circle of digital devices and replaced by lithium batteries.

On February 14th, 1990, Sony officially released a new lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The 4.1V voltage, 80wh/kg mass energy density and 200wh/l volume energy density of this battery formed an overwhelming advantage over the popular nickel cadmium battery at that time.

In June, 1991, the world's first mobile phone with lithium-ion batteries came out. For a time, lithium-ion batteries became the "most promising chemical power supply" in people's minds, and even known as the "last generation battery".

The commercial use of lithium battery began to change the whole electronic products rapidly. Dell, the largest personal computer manufacturer in the United States, has launched a laptop equipped with "18650" lithium battery. The slogan is: "our laptop can be used from New York to Los Angeles on the plane".

In the 1990s, the Japanese consumer electronics industry rose rapidly, sweeping the world, and lithium batteries were one of the main drivers. Sony, which has climbed onto the upstart of lithium batteries, has also been able to rise rapidly and become a global consumer electronics giant.

On October 9, 2019 Beijing time, John B. goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, Akira Yoshino, the United States, Britain and Japan won the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry in recognition of their research contributions in lithium batteries.

At present, lithium batteries are overturning the century old automotive industry.

In 2017, PetroChina (5.640, -0.01, -0.18%) consumed 600 million tons, half of which was gasoline and diesel for automobiles. In the first half of 2019, we have 250 million vehicles. There are more and more cars, and the fuel consumption is also increasing, but where does this oil come from? 70% of them are imported, which involves energy security.

More importantly, lithium batteries can promote the upgrading of China's automotive industry.

In terms of lithium battery vehicles, China started almost at the same time as the world. Over the past few years, China has spent hundreds of billions of subsidies to develop new energy vehicles, more than half of which are used to buy and develop lithium batteries. The greater advantage lies in China's huge auto market, which makes China's auto industry see the hope of catching up.

Nobel laureates worry that lithium will lead to war

The invention of the internal combustion engine has made oil the world's largest commodity, provoking countless disputes.

John B. goodenough, a 97 year old Nobel laureate, warned that lithium resources are no less important than strategic resources such as oil. Once there is a bottleneck in the exploitation of lithium resources, it may become the fuse of war like oil.

Since last year, countries around the world have started plans to ban the sale of fuel vehicles——

Norway plans to restrict the sale of fuel vehicles in 2025;

The Netherlands will achieve zero emissions of new vehicles after 2030;

India will only sell electric vehicles after 2030;

Israel will ban the sale of fuel vehicles and turn gas stations into charging stations after 2030;

Britain, France and Spain all plan to stop * * * gasoline and diesel vehicles in 2040.

In China, the Ministry of industry and information technology has also started to study the timetable for stopping the production and sale of traditional energy vehicles. This time node may be around 2040, and the specific time is to be determined.

The reason why these countries dare to abandon traditional fuel vehicles is that they feel that vehicles powered by lithium batteries can replace fuel vehicles.

At present, how to ensure the reliable supply of lithium resources has become as important as ensuring oil exploitation.

Lithium is destined to become the focus of attention and competition all over the world——

The EU lists lithium as one of 14 key raw materials;

The United States regards lithium as one of 43 important mineral resources;

China has positioned lithium as one of 24 national strategic mineral resources.

Each car needs about 9kg lithium. According to Deutsche Bank, the market demand for lithium will increase by 60% - 250% in the next few years. Whoever has mastered the lithium resource supply chain will control the future of the lithium battery industry.

As a result, international giants have set foot in lithium mines.

According to the latest report of the U.S. Geological Survey in 2018, the global lithium resource reserves exceed 53million tons, including 9.8 million tons in Argentina, 9.0 million tons in Bolivia, 8.4 million tons in Chile, 7.0 million tons in China, 6.8 million tons in the United States and 5 million tons in Australia.

At present, the world's lithium mines are mainly produced in Australia and South America. Australia is the world's largest lithium supplier. The global lithium mining is mainly led by Albemarle, sqm, Tianqi lithium (27.880, 0.16, 0.58%) and FMC Corp. these four companies account for more than 80% of the global supply.

But the new competition is intensifying. The latest news shows that Japan's Softbank group is vigorously entering the lithium industry.

In April, 2018, Softbank Group invested about 8billion yen to acquire 9.9% equity of nemasca lithium. This is the first mining investment project of Softbank group. Previously, Softbank was dismissive of this Resource-based Heavy asset investment opportunity.

Through this investment, the lithium output of the mine obtained by Softbank group is expected to be 33000 tons, and Softbank group will directly purchase up to 20% in the long term.

"The investment in nemasca lithium is a very important step in the group's strategy", said son Zhengyi, President and President of Softbank group. "Through the integration of technology and energy, we will further promote the mobile travel revolution in the era of animal networking and pure electric vehicles".

In addition to Softbank, world-renowned auto companies that have direct demand for lithium resources have extended the supply of lithium batteries to upstream lithium resources. BMW, Toyota and Tesla, the world's well-known auto companies, have extended their raw material supply chain and laid out upstream lithium resources.

Tesla is also unwilling to lag behind. It is negotiating with sqm, the largest lithium producer in Chile, on the supply of lithium battery raw materials. In the future, Tesla may establish a processing plant here to produce high-quality lithium required by its batteries.

China's Tianqi lithium and Ganfeng lithium have obtained some rights and interests in global hot spots and high-quality resource areas such as Australia, the world's largest supplier of lithium ore, Chile and Argentina, the best salt lake lithium resource countries. As the third largest manufacturer in the world, Tianqi lithium holds 51% of the shares of talison lithium Co., Ltd., which owns the world's largest spodumene mine, greenbushes, and once supplied 65% of the world's lithium ore.

In addition to the market-oriented actions of enterprises, the battle for lithium resources is having a broader political impact.

Bolivian President Morales, who recently resigned, was described by western countries as the enemy of environmentalism. Since taking office in 2006, he has planned to nationalize several powerful mining companies, such as Glencore, Jindal steel&power, Pan American energy and South American silver.

He expected to make the country rich by mining lithium, but this obviously moved the cheese of western countries.

Practical embarrassment of China's lithium industry

As the second largest lithium resource country in the world, China should not worry about lithium resources, but the reality is cruel——

China's lithium resources are heavily dependent on other countries, and 80% of the supply of lithium resources depends on imports. It has become the world's largest importer of lithium resources.

Although the total amount of lithium resources in China is large, on the whole, the quality of lithium resources in salt lakes and external development conditions are poor, resulting in difficult development, high cost and weak supply capacity.

Qinghai Qaidam Basin is the region with the most abundant lithium resources in China, but the lithium resource grade of Qinghai Salt Lake is low, the ratio of magnesium to lithium is high, and the separation is difficult. The lithium resource reserves of Chaerhan Salt Lake in Qinghai account for 40% of lithium in salt lakes in China, but the grade of lithium chloride is only 96.4 mg/l, and the ratio of magnesium to lithium is also as high as 500.

The average grade of lithium chloride in salt lakes such as Atacama, a high-quality salt lake in South America, is more than 6000 mg/l, and the magnesium lithium ratio is only 6.4. In other words, the lithium chloride grade of lithium resources in Qinghai Salt Lake in China is about 60 times lower than that of high-quality salt lakes in South America, while the magnesium lithium ratio is nearly 80 times higher. According to professional calculations, the average cost of lithium resources development in Qinghai Salt Lake is twice that of high-quality salt lakes in South America.

The quality of lithium resources in Tibet's salt lakes is good, but ABA and Ganzi prefectures are mainly high-altitude mountainous areas, and the local infrastructure is poor. Affected by factors such as high altitude, transportation conditions and poor enterprise management, mining requires a lot of human and material costs, and tailings treatment is increasingly difficult.

Among the hard rock lithium resources in China, spodumene ores are mainly distributed in Western Sichuan. These areas have high altitude and poor infrastructure, and their development is greatly limited. At present, only a small amount of mining has been carried out, and the large-scale development is basically at a standstill.

Industry experts predict that by 2025, China's demand for lithium resources will reach 433800 tons, while the local supply capacity will only be 180000 tons, the gap will reach 253800 tons, and the external dependence of demand will reach 58.5%.

Considering that China's lithium salt processing industry still needs certain resources for processing and export, the supply situation of China's lithium resources will be more severe.

As mentioned above, China's lithium companies have participated in the competition of global lithium resources, ensuring the supply of China's lithium resources to a certain extent. However, China has not yet mastered the international pricing power, and the voice of lithium resources needs to be improved.

In addition, there is a structural imbalance in the investment layout and supply of China's overseas lithium resources, which is excessively concentrated in high-cost areas. More than a dozen enterprises such as Tianqi lithium and Ganfeng lithium have invested too much in Spodumene resources in Australia. In 2017, among China's imported lithium resources, the raw ore and concentrate of spodumene imported from Australia accounted for 80% of the total import volume, and the salt lake lithium products imported from Chile and Argentina accounted for only 20%. The development cost of spodumene ore is 1.4 times higher than that of salt lake lithium on average, and its ability to resist the risk of market price fluctuations is poor. Once the price of lithium resources fluctuates, it will directly threaten the operation of China's lithium investment projects in Australia, and then threaten the safe supply of China's lithium resources.

How to deal with it?

Draw lessons from the development and utilization of rare earth, make an overall plan for the development and protection of lithium resources in China, and make a strategic reserve plan for lithium resources.

In the upstream, set up a lithium ore packing exploration area and increase investment to comprehensively find out the family background.

In the downstream, formulate the development plan of the whole industrial chain of lithium resource exploitation, beneficiation and smelting, battery production and industrialization of new energy vehicles. Strengthen the research and development of high-tech technology and break through the bottleneck of mining technology. In view of the high magnesium lithium ratio and many associated elements of China's salt lake brine lithium resources, special funds should be set up to increase the learning, introduction and independent research and development of salt lake lithium extraction technology, so as to realize the large-scale production of salt lake lithium resources in the Qinghai Tibet Plateau as soon as possible.

In addition, we should also establish overseas resource bases in key resource concentration areas in the world, participate in global resource allocation "going out", and ensure the security of domestic resource supply and enterprise development. In areas with global hot investment areas and relatively perfect financial markets, such as Quebec, Canada and Pilbara, Australia, mining rights can be acquired in the form of equity or debt investment to obtain high-quality projects.

Article source:Battery China Network

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