Main sources of lithium in the world
There are several ways to obtain lithium: from continental brines, dry salt flats, salt lakes, minerals, oil field brines, geothermal brines, sedimentary clays and sea water.
The most important in the industry are extraction from brines and from rock containing spodumene.
SQM works in the Atacama Salt Flat in basins where brine with lithium chloride and other dissolved salts is concentrated. Drilling is carried out in the salt flat, where the brine is pumped and transferred by pipes to evaporation basins.
Then, in other pools, an evaporation process similar to that at the start is carried out, but under controlled conditions, to achieve a high concentration of lithium and to separate the impurities, which are returned to the salt flat.
Almost no energy is consumed, since the action of the sun and the wind are used, but under strict technical control.
Unlike brine, hard rock lithium mineral deposits involve an intensive use of energy for mining operations, generally open pit, from which the mineral is extracted through a series of steps that involve a greater use of energy and water.
For 2025, the world needs approximately 800 thousand tons of Lithium (LCE), which represents about US $ 6,000 Millions in sales.