Lithium Mining: Here’s the List of Major Lithium Mining Companies in the World

Lithium MiningList of Lithium Companies Around the World

If you are reading this on a smartphone or a tablet, lithium is already doing something for you; it’s powering your device. But lithium can also add some “vitamins” to your portfolio. Unlike gold, silver, or bauxite (the ore that produces aluminum), lithium has not attracted much attention from investors. But neglect will soon convert into devotion, or even zeal. The number of lithium stocks listed in all countries is small—for now. This is because active lithium companies in the world are scarce.

Top Lithium Companies Worldwide

Interest in lithium is going to grow exponentially, but in this early phase, it will be difficult to discern the emerging lithium plays with the potential to reach production from the mere hopefuls. Evidently, unless your investment strategy was inspired by a “Darwin Award” candidate, you will want to consider the best lithium stocks—or at least the major/largest lithium companies in the world to profit.

Lithium’s potential is much bigger, because it is the key material needed to make the batteries that power electric cars. They will eventually power trucks, homes and anything else that today requires hydrocarbon-based fuels, with the possible exception of airplanes. But, even in airplanes, lithium batteries help power auxiliary systems. The “Boeing 787,” for example, relies on two major lithium batteries: one supplies power to the airplane when the engines aren’t running, and the other intervenes in emergencies—in case of a power failure.

Lithium is touted as the fuel of the future. That role most certainly applies but, given the many applications of li-ion batteries, the future is already here. For instance, the “iPhone,” or any other smartphone, would not have been possible without a lithium battery. As for the major producers, many of the most important lithium companies are in South America.

The Main Sources of Lithium

Note that lithium, an alkaline metal, is extracted from brine (in South America, for example) or rock (as some lithium companies in Quebec plan to do). This is important in evaluating lithium stocks. Brine extraction is more common and, in that sense, offers less risk. This is why the vast arid region situated at the junction of Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia has been dubbed the “lithium triangle”, attracting most companies. It is there that the lithium “lakes” contain the richest lithium deposits. They contain nearly 40% of global lithium resources, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

ADY Resources Limited, owned by Toronto’s Enirgi Group Corporation, operates in the Argentine province of Salta, a few kilometers from the Chilean border. It has 20 evaporation ponds to process the lithium salts. The lithium is extracted from brine, where its natural concentration is a typically a fraction of a percentage (0.035%). The resulting white powder—similar to table salt—is lithium carbonate, which is used to make, among other things, batteries. But Enirgi is private. By 2017, ADY Resources plans to build a factory capable of producing 25,000 tonnes per year, which would make it one of the world’s leading producers. (Source: “Enirgi Group Announces Positive Results of Definitive Feasibility Study for Salar Del Rincon Lithium Project,” Marketwired, July 7, 2016.)

In 2014, lithium for batteries used more than a quarter of the world’s supply. By 2025, that percentage will likely approach 50% or higher. Much of that supply will continue to come from Chile, which Forbes described as the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” Argentina has even thrown about the idea of a lithium cartel—a “lithium OPEC”—that would lead the market. Bolivia, meanwhile, will soon join the lithium game, but it might be done by state-owned companies, given that a national pilot plant in the Salar de Uyuni, in southwestern Bolivia, opened in 2014.

Here’s a brief list of lithium mining companies. Note: this is not a comprehensive list, but it has been “curated” to include the most promising prospects. Also, see the wider table.

List of Lithium Mining Companies in All Countries

Name Ticker Country
Lithium X Energy Corp CVE:LIX.V Canada
Albemarle Corporation NYSE:ALB USA
Sociedad Quimica y Minera (ADR) NYSE:SQM USA
Orocobre Ltd TSE:ORL Canada
Galaxy Resources Limited. ASX:GXY Australia
Lithium Americas Corp TSE:LAC Canada
Bacanora Minerals Ltd CVE:BCN Canada
Altura Mining Ltd ASX:AJM Australia
Sirios Resources Inc CVE:SOI Canada
Pure Energy Minerals CVE:PE Canada
Red River Resources Limited ASX:RVR Australia
Lithium One Inc CVE:LI Canada
Dajin Resources Corp. CVE:DJI Canada
International Lithium Corp CVE:ILC Canada
First Lithium Resources Inc. CVE:MCI Canada

In North America, junior miners are exploring rock lithium. That’s the new way of producing this hot commodity. In that case, consider the following:

Nemaska Lithium Inc. (TSE:NMX). Nemaska is exploiting the “Whabouchi” mine near Nemiscau Airport in James Bay. It expects to produce lithium hydroxide in 2017. (Source: “Nemaska Lithium Receives First $5M Tranche from Resources Quebec Inc. for Phase 1 Lithium Hydroxide Plant”, Nemaska Lithium, May 24, 2016) This hydroxide is then routed in Candiac, where Phostech Lithium, a subsidiary of Swiss group Clariant, would make the lithium iron phosphate—a component of batteries for electric vehicles.

Lithium x Energy Corp. (CVE:LIX) is another Canadian lithium company, targeting the battery industry. It has resources in the previously discussed Lithium Triangle of South America, but it’s also exploring a potential lithium deposit in Nevada.

The latter project has good potential, because it’s adjacent to Silver Peak, the only active lithium mine in North America, run by Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB), the world’s largest lithium producer. Albermarle’s Rockwood division produces some 33% of the global lithium supply. Its mining assets are mostly in Australia and Chile. But Albemarle has a first-class seat to benefit from Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) and its “Gigafactory” in Nevada, which will make batteries for cars and homes.

For those willing to consider a Latin American lithium company, consider Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (ADR) (NYSE:SQM). It has a joint venture with Lithium Americas Corp (TSX:LAC) to exploit a lithium deposit in Argentina’s Salar de Cauchari. SQM looks forward to producing some 40,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate in a period of 30 years. (Source: Chilean SQM’s Argentina joint venture project to cost up to $600 mln, Reuters, May 5, 2016.)

Finally, there is FMC Corp. (NYSE:FMC). This is not strictly a lithium company. Lithium is but one of its products, so investing in FMC requires a different approach. Demand for batteries alone might not be sufficient in boosting its profits. But FMC, after a tough period, is one of the emerging lithium plays. (Source: “FMC strikes supply deal; accelerates expansion plans,” Industrial Minerals, July26, 2016.)

The Bottom Line on Lithium Mining

Ultimately, hybrid and electric vehicles, whose batteries can use up to 6 kg of lithium, are propelling demand for lithium. Some two million such vehicles were sold in 2013, but this could more than double by 2020. Inevitably, this will prompt a surge of lithium demand.

Tesla Motors has played an important role in popularizing lithium through its Gigafactory, which plans to make at least half a million batteries per year for its cars by 2020, accounting for nearly 10% of global lithium production. Evidently, the time to consider lithium stocks is now. Click here to learn more about lithium and related investment approaches: “17 Million Drivers No Longer Pay for Gas?