Explorers Discover 649,000 Tons of Lithium in Mali, Boosting Supply for Tech and Auto Companies

The West African nation of Mali is set to begin lithium production by 2020 as companies recently discovered 694,000 tons of exploitable reserves, Reuters reports. 

For those unaware of just how critical the abundance of this mineral is to the tech industry, lithium has become one of the most in-demand commodities in the world after everything from smartphones to electric vehicles has shifted toward a reliance on lithium-ion batteries. From Apple electronics to Tesla Model 3 cars, some of the biggest tech companies and automakers on the globe depend on lithium resources to maintain their product. 

The discoveries took place in Mali’s Goulamina and Bouogoni projects, respectively owned by Australian mineral explorer Biriman and the U.K.’s Kodal Minerals, and comprised 48 million tons of ore reserves including the stunning amount of lithium. Of course, these figures represent merely what has been found so far.

“The numbers could go up as the research continues,” said Yaya Djire, chief of the geology department at Mali’s mines ministry. “Biriman should start production within two years.” 

Up until last year, Mali had only issued two permits for lithium mining exploration. There’s been a dramatic increase since then, however. 

“Since 2017, a dozen exploration permits have been delivered to companies, all located in the mining area of Bougouni, which is the main area of lithium deposits,” Djire explained. 

As it stands, the world’s lithium reserves sit at around 16 million tons. That makes this discovery a substantial find, as it would comprise a substantial 4.34 percent of that total. The majority of lithium production is centered in Chile and Australia. 

Most recently, Tesla entered an agreement with China’s top lithium producer to satisfy its electric vehicle battery needs, which would provide the automaker with nearly a fifth of the lithium it requires to build its battery cells. Mali state officials hope that the country’s latest discovery will provide both the local economy with a significant boost and those companies eager to utilize its resources with the supply they seek.

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