© Juan Roballo / Shutterstock.com

Key Points

  • Lithium carbonate is used in industries like glass, electronics, and ceramic.
  • Lithium hydroxide is used to make grease and lubricants.
  • The three biggest companies in lithium mining are Albemarle, Tianqi Lithium, and Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium.

Large lithium mining companies have significantly expanded in recent years to meet the rising demand for rechargeable batteries, such as those used in renewable energy sources like electric vehicles (EV) and consumer devices.

Most of these companies supply lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, both of which are used in various industries.

  • Lithium carbonate is a highly versatile compound needed in different industries, including glass, electronics, and ceramic. It works perfectly as a cathode material in batteries because of its high electrochemical potential.
  • Lithium hydroxide is used in making lubricating greases, which perform well under extreme temperatures and loads. Today, more than 70% of lubricating greases consist of lithium.

In short, lithium is used in everything from batteries to medicine, and its versatility makes it a valuable resource. Lithium-ion batteries, which are used widely in mobile phones and EVs, are the most widely recognized application of this element.

Why Is the Demand for Lithium Growing?

Interestingly, the production of batteries is anticipated to increase in the coming years. It is likely to happen with electric vehicles becoming more widespread in important economies striving to decarbonize. In fact, researchers predict that global demand for batteries will more than double by 2024, and that is where lithium comes into the picture.

While Tesla, the forerunner in electric vehicles, has been instrumental in promoting the use of Li-ion batteries, the entire ecosystem of lithium mining corporations and battery makers has also made significant contributions to the transition from gasoline to electricity. At the very top are the companies responsible for mining the earth for lithium.

Because of these companies, lithium output increased dramatically from 28,100 tons in 2010 to over 100,000 tons in 2021. As a result, experts projected that there would be more than 21 million tons of known reserves across the globe in 2022.

Who are the Largest Players in the Lithium Game?

The interesting thing about the lithium mining sector is that there is no longer an oligopoly of the “Big Three” companies, namely FMC, SQM, and Albemarle. While they are still among the largest producers of lithium, China has also entered the fray. In fact, it became the third largest lithium producer in 2021, behind Chile and Australia.

Analysts found that despite being the world leader in lithium processing and refining in 2020, China held only about 12% of the world’s lithium raw material supply. Moreover, Li-ion battery output is predicted to skyrocket in the following years, and China will be a major driver of this trend.

So, if you are interested in investing in lithium stock, you should not limit yourself to NY-listed chemical companies but also keep an eye on Chinese producers. Here is an overview of the 10 largest lithium companies to better understand where they stand in terms of market cap and revenue.

10. Lithium Americas – Market Cap: USD 3.5 billion

lithium americas
Lithium Americas has its headquarters in Vancouver, Canada.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

This organization, formerly known as Western Lithium USA Corp., is a resource company divided into four divisions: Organoclay, Cauchari-Olaroz, Lithium Nevada, and Corporate. Its geographical subcategories include the United States, Germany, Canada, and Argentina.

The Company is committed to developing its lithium development projects mainly in Argentina. These developmental projects include:

  • The Thacker Pass project in Nevada,
  • The Caucharo-Olaroz project in Argentina,
  • The Pastos Grandes project in Argentina.

Natural Resources

Regarding natural resources, Lithium Americas is one of the largest, focusing mainly on potassium, lithium, and other mineral resources in South America. The Thacker Pass deposit is the largest sedimentary lithium deposit in the United States.

The project uses cutting-edge technology to drastically cut down on carbon emissions and maximize water recycling. In addition, the proposed mining site, processing facilities, and project infrastructure aim to protect sensitive ecosystems in the Montana Rocky Mountains.

 If successful, it will eliminate the United States’ need to import lithium and completely satisfy the country’s anticipated need.

9. EnerSys – Market Cap: USD 3.79 billion

enersys
EnerSys is a stored energy systems and technology provider for industrial applications.

©Casimiro PT/Shutterstock.com

This company manufactures the cutting-edge lithium-ion technology used in the NexSys ion battery. Among the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial batteries, EnerSys ranks high. In fact, as the largest producer of industrial batteries, EnerSys® serves clients in more than a hundred different countries from its numerous production and assembly locations.

Reading, Pennsylvania, serves as the global and American headquarters. In addition, Zug, Switzerland, and Singapore serve as the company’s regional headquarters.

A memorandum of understanding was struck between Lithium Technology Corporation and EnerSys in July of 2021. And as a result, EnerSys became the sole distributor of Lithium products. Because of this, EnerSys will be able to increase its presence in the battery market and provide customers with a broader selection of lithium product options.

Target Markets

When it comes to building, developing, installing, and maintaining a complete stored energy system for industrial applications around the world, no one does it better than EnerSys. There are three main target markets for the company’s goods and services:

  • Energy Systems (uninterruptible power supplies and utility),
  • Motive Power (mining, material handling, and railway),
  • Specialty.

It mines lithium and is also amongst the largest users of lithium in applications, with a focus on lithium-ion batteries. The current market value for the company is $3.79billion, making it one of the largest.

8. Livent – Market Cap: USD 4.66 billion

livent
Livent Corporation is a fully integrated lithium company.

©Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock.com

Mainly a chemical manufacturing company, Livent is focused on utilizing lithium to create new forms of energy. In order to facilitate the creation of compact, long-lasting batteries, it manufactures lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide monohydrate, and high-purity lithium metal.

Livent has been extracting lithium from the Salar del Hombre Muerto in Argentina for almost 20 years. In fact, lithium carbonate is an essential feedstock for its lithium hydroxide manufacturing process. It also manufactures high-quality lithium hydroxide for use in batteries in both the United States and China.

Today, Livent deals in a wide range of products, including:

  • Green energy,
  • Modern mobility,
  • Specialized innovation.

Production facilities are located in the United States, the United Kingdom, Argentina, China, and India, and the company employs more than 1,000 people worldwide.

Unique Offerings

This firm’s LIOVIX lithium metal product is unique on the market. Interestingly, the lithium metal and other components in this printable composition have the potential to greatly improve the performance of batteries while simultaneously decreasing their production costs.

Additionally, LIOVIX allows for recharge cycles, further improving the battery life. Because of this, battery makers have greater leeway in regulating the lithium content of their products, which improves overall efficiency.

Several well-known original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and clients in the battery manufacturing industry worldwide have verified these enhancements. It is even more impressive because LIOVIX can be included in standard battery production processes with already existing machinery and methods.

Livent and General Motors entered into a long-term lithium supply agreement in July 2022, with the automaker agreeing to prepay Livent $198 million before beginning to receive shipments of lithium hydroxide in 2025.

7. Sichuan Yahua Industrial Group – Market Cap: USD 5 billion

Headquartered in Chengdu, Chinese company Sichuan Yahua Industrial Group manufactures and sells lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate, and other lithium salt products. Its primary operations include:

  • Industrial cords,
  • Industrial detonators,
  • Industrial explosives,
  • Industrial detonators,
  • and other specialized civil explosive items.

The corporation is a major provider of lithium to the Chinese market. Its facilities include a lithium hydroxide refinery with an annual capacity of 12,000 tons and a lithium carbonate refinery with an annual capacity of 6,000 tons. It is legally entitled to explore a massive lithium quarry in Asia, which has the potential to produce 180,000 tons of lithium concentrate annually.

It is worth mentioning that in December 2020, the company said it had struck a five-year contract with Tesla to supply battery-grade lithium hydroxide to the electric vehicle manufacturer. In addition, Yahua Group holds over 180 patents, including 27 innovation patents, 21 design patents, and 137 utility model patents.

6. Allkem – Market Cap: USD 5.36 billion

allkem
Allkem was formed from the merger of Orocobre Ltd and Galaxy Resources.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

Given Australia’s abundant lithium reserves, it stands to reason that an Australian company would be among the world’s top producers. Previously known as Orocobre Limited, the company changed its name to Allkem in November 2021.  

Allkem was founded when Argentine-focused Orocobre and Australian-based Galaxy Resources merged for a total of AUD 4 billion. The company handles quality lithium operations in Australia, a lithium brine and borax venture in Argentina, and a hard rock project in Canada.

Major Partnerships

It handles everything through strategic alliances with companies like Jujuy Province, Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, and the Toyota Tsusho Corporation. With the help of these partners, Allkem has built a first-of-its-kind greenfield, brine-based lithium project at the Salar de Olaroz. It took 20 years to complete the project, but it will likely produce over 42,500 tons of lithium carbonate.

Allkem sticks to a vertically integrated product strategy, which is an essential factor in developing a low-carbon economy. Initiatives and programs aimed at bolstering organizational capabilities are also prioritized in order to expand commercial prospects and spur regional growth.

5. Pilbara Minerals – Market Cap: USD 6.8 billion

Pilbara Minerals is a Western Australia-based lithium and tantalite mining company with a market cap of USD 6.8 billion. Its major subsidiaries include:

  • Sturt Resources,
  • Tabba Tabba Tantalum,
  • Pilgangoora Operations,
  • and Pilbara Lithium.

The company handles all of the world’s largest hard-rock lithium operations in the Pilbara region, with most of its offerings revolving around its two processing plants:

  • The Ngungaju Plant for the production of spodumene concentrate
  • The Pilgan Plant for the production of spodumene and tantalite concentrates.

Spodumene

An essential means of obtaining lithium, spodumene is a mineral composed of lithium aluminum inosilicate. The company produces over 330,000 tons of spodumene concentrate only in its Pilgan Plant. The same plant has a capacity to produce about 321,000 tons of tantalite concentrate annually. At the same facility, there is a flotation and gravity circuit along with a dense media separation system.

It produces fines and coarse concentrates, which then lead to the production of the highest quality spodumene. To achieve its long-term goal of being a low-cost, environmentally responsible producer and a chemical and raw material supplier, the company relies heavily on its unique growth and diversification strategy.

Strategic Partnerships

Because of the company’s high standards and massive size, many global partners have invested in Pilbara Minerals. Some big names include Yibin Tianyi, Great Wall Motor Company, and Ganfeng Lithium.

A total of USD 155 million in cash exchanged hands when Pilbara Minerals acquired Altura Lithium in 2021. In February 2022, the company published its report highlighting its first-half profit standing at AUD 114, which is primarily due to the high demand for lithium.

4. SQM – Market Cap: USD 25.73 billion

sqm
Sociedad Química y Minera (SQM) is a Chilean chemical company.

©Pavel Kapysh/Shutterstock.com

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile – or SQM – is a Chilean chemical business that extracts lithium hydroxide and carbonate from the Salar de Atacama salt flats in Northern Chile. With operations in over 20 countries, SQM is among the market leaders in lithium and its derivatives. The company’s primary production facilities are situated in the Atacama Desert.

Interestingly, potassium, lithium, and specialized plant nutrition are only a few of the company’s five main product lines. It is one of the largest lithium companies with a capacity of producing 70,000 tons annually and plans to expand it further to 150,000 tons a year.

Partnerships

In terms of partnerships, the company joined forces with Lithium Americas to develop the Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project. It turned out to be the company’s first big investment in the raw material sector beyond Chile. However, Ganfeng took over a couple of years later and acquired SQM’s stake in the project.

SQM is also working with other partners outside of South America, and an important mention is the Mount Holland lithium project with Wesfarmers in Australia. Because of all these efforts, SQM expects its sales volume to cross 140,000 tons in 2022. Interestingly, only 20% of those sales are expected at set contract pricing or variable prices with different price floors and ceilings.

3. Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium – Market Cap: USD 26 billion

largest lithium companies
Ganfeng Lithium is the world’s third-largest lithium compounds producer.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

Headquartered in China, Ganfeng Lithium Co., Ltd. is the true industry leader when it comes to lithium mining. It operates in Argentina, Australia, China, and Mexico and processes the mined ores into Lithium metal and compounds like chlorides and fluorides.

Ganfeng focuses on virtually every stage of the lithium battery industry, from research and development to production and recycling.  Many different business sectors take advantage of its products. Some of those sectors include:

  • Energy storage,
  • Consumer durables,
  • Medicines,
  • Electric vehicles,
  • and chemicals.

Specialized Mining

Ganfeng is the only company with proven, industrial-scale methods for getting lithium out of saltwater, rocks, and other waste products. In addition, it has the third-highest capacity for lithium compounds and is the world’s largest producer of lithium metal.

And, in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Ganfeng is developing multiple initiatives that harness the sun’s energy. In fact, it routinely optimizes technical ways to raise output and decrease waste. The byproducts of lithium extraction are shipped to markets such as the cement and glass sectors.

Stock Exchange

Ganfeng went public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2018, the same year it acquired SQM’s stake in the Cauchari-Olaroz project in Argentina. What’s more, the company increased its stake in the project to 51% in 2020, giving it a controlling stake in the asset.

Ganfeng focuses on striking new supply deals with large corporations, such as BMW, Tesla, Volkswagen, and LG Chem. And that is why it has a market cap of well over USD 26 billion. The company earned a revenue of $767.5m in 2019, putting it on our list of the largest lithium companies in the world.

2. Tianqi Lithium – Market Cap: USD 27.24 billion

largest lithium companies
As of 2018, Tianqi Lithium controls more than 46% of the production of lithium worldwide.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

With a market valuation of around USD 27.24, Chinese company Tianqi Lithium is the largest in the world in terms of hard-rock lithium production. The company has holdings in resources and production in Chile, Australia, and China. In addition, it focuses on many different industry segments, including:

  • Lithium resource investment,
  • Advanced lithium compounds production,
  • Lithium concentrates mining.

As of 2022, Tianqi has 134 patents to its name and has either led or assisted in the creation of 20 both national and industry standards. Some of its most popular industrial products include:

  • Lithium carbonate,
  • Lithium metal,
  • Lithium monohydrate,
  • Lithium chloride anhydrous.

Acquisitions

Despite competition from Rockwood Holdings, Tianqi was able to acquire Talison Lithium in 2012, becoming the sole owner of the Greenbushes mine in Australia. However, it has now sold a 49% stake in Talison to Rockwood Holdings, which is now part of Albemarle. In September 2016, Tianqi paid USD 209.6 m for a 2.1% stake in SQM, which then increased to 23.77 % for US$4.07 bn in 2018.

Tianqi controlled more than 46 percent of worldwide lithium output in 2018, and its global workforce numbered more than 1,800 people. In the first quarter report for 2021, Tianqi earned $140 million in revenues.

Struggles

It is worth mentioning that Tianqi had a rough patch because of the pandemic. In 2020, financially struggling Tianqi sold a stake in its Australian operations to IGO for USD 1.4 billion. This truly gave it the boost it needed.

So, during the second quarter of 2021, when lithium prices increased, Tianqi once again generated a profit. And in the third quarter of that year, it posted its largest quarterly profit since 2018, making it one of the strongest players in the lithium mining sector.

1. Albemarle – Market Cap: USD 28.68 billion

largest lithium companies
As of 2020, Albemarle was the largest provider of lithium for electric vehicle batteries.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

With a workforce of 5,000 and customers in 100 countries, Albemarle is a worldwide powerhouse in the lithium industry. Albemarle also produces bromine. In addition, it offers pharmaceutical companies refining services and chemistry consulting in addition to lithium and other metals. The company deals in three categories of specialized chemicals, including:

  • Bromine specialties,
  • Lithium,
  • Catalysts.

About 36% of the company’s revenue comes from lithium mining and supply, whereas 31% comes from bromine specialties. Albemarle creates a wide range of lithium alloys to cater to the specific needs of the lithium-battery research community and thermal battery producers. In fact, it is the largest supplier of lithium for EV battery manufacturers worldwide, covering North and South America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

Path to Success

It offers a wide variety of lithium alloys, including lithium aluminum, mainly in the form of ultrathin lithium foils, powders, and customized lithium anodes. Albemarle became a formidable competitor in the lithium market when it acquired Rockwood Holdings in early 2015.

In addition to its 49% share in the huge hard-rock Greenbushes mine, the business controls lithium brine mining in the Clayton Valley in the US and the Salar de Atacama in Chile.

In 2018, a Chilean governmental organization, Corfo, authorized the company to increase its lithium quota. And it enabled Albemarle to produce more than 145,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually until 2043.

Later, Albemarle agreed to invest $1.15 billion into a partnership with Mineral Resources to build and manage the Wodgina hard-rock lithium mine in Australia. This truly helped Albemarle establish itself as a true industry leader in lithium production.

 Up Next

The 10 Largest Lithium Companies In The World, And What They Do FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much lithium is available in the world?

Lithium ranks at number 33 as the most abundant element in nature. The US Geological Survey estimates that there are now 89 million metric tons of lithium reserves worldwide, up from roughly 69 million in 2000. There are currently 22 million metric tons of lithium in storage, and 100 thousand metric tons are expected to be produced by 2022.

 

Which country is the leading producer of lithium?

According to the most recent figures from the United States Geological Survey, China, Chile, and Australia produce 14,000 tons, 26,000 tons, and 55,000 tons of lithium, respectively.

Global lithium production increased to 100,000 tons in 2018 from 82,500 tons in 2020. Currently, battery manufacturing uses over 74% of all produced lithium; however, there are other uses for the metal. About 14% goes toward ceramics and glass production, while 3% is allocated to greases for mechanical use.

Is it a good idea to invest in a lithium stock?

With investors focusing more and more on the green energy transition, there is an increasing demand for lithium. And that is also the reason why investing in lithium stock may be a good idea.

Understanding lithium’s supply and demand dynamics is crucial when selecting a stock to invest in because there are distinct elements to keep an eye on in lithium companies.

The demand for lithium is likely to depend on the growth in the battery and electric car industries. Many market watchers still believe lithium’s supply will be constrained for the foreseeable future, but others are more pessimistic.

And that is the reason why investment in lithium shares has increased significantly in 2022 as the price of lithium continues its upward trend. As the world moves toward renewable power and electric vehicles, there is still a high demand for the metal used in battery production.

The stock markets of the United States of America (USA), Canada, and Australia all feature companies that trade in lithium. However, lithium stocks are one of the most intriguing investment options available now.

It is early in the lithium business, as evidenced by the fact that several companies are still striving to launch their operations. Consequently, everything is still up in the air, and the true winners and losers have not been established.

How does the lithium extraction process work?

The area with the highest lithium content can be found in “the lithium triangle,” an area encompassing Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Companies that manufacture lithium-ion batteries receive their primary raw material from here.

Mining for brine is a laborious procedure that can take anywhere from 8 months to 3 long years. First off, brine is pumped to the surface after a hole is drilled for mining. Then, months later, it evaporates, leaving behind a mix of borax, potassium, manganese, and salts, which needed further filtration through another evaporation pool.

This mixture must be sufficiently filtered for 12-18 months before it may be used to extract lithium carbonate, often known as white gold. The process is rather inexpensive and effective, but the downside is that it requires an estimated 500,000 gallons of water for every ton of lithium recovered.

Is there an increase in demand for lithium?

The rising demand for lithium-ion batteries is a result of the increasing popularity of mobile devices and other technological products worldwide. This is especially true for electric vehicles, as the world strives to stop relying on fossil fuels in an effort to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

By 2025, the demand for lithium is anticipated to reach around 1.3 million metric tons. That is five times the current level. Several automakers have a role to play in pushing the demand up. Volkswagen, for instance, plans to introduce more than 70 electric vehicle types within the next decade.

Moreover, China’s 2015 announcement that its five-year plan would prioritize electric vehicles increased lithium consumption. As a result, from 2016 to 2018, the price of lithium more than doubled, and it is anticipated that this trend will continue as demand grows.

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