One thing we know with certainty about the lithium market: the consensus forecasts are wrong. It is not possible to use more lithium than is going to be produced. Ultimately, supply will have to rise faster than expected or usage prove weaker. Prices will play a role in which of these (or what combination) happens. Higher prices will chop back on demand and possibly make alternative materials viable. New supplies will be encouraged but, as seen in the oil and iron ore markets, high profits contain the seeds of their own eventual destruction. Rapidly evolving technology also makes outcomes hard to predict. An 8 June article in the MIT Technology Review (VIEW LINK) describes efforts by researchers at Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency to extract lithium from seawater. Companies like Cobre Montana are poised to change the industry’s understanding of mineable resources. On the demand side, scientists are already working to make lithium redundant. In 10 years, the world may be awash in lithium as new sources are tapped and battery makers have adopted aluminium as a more economic substitute. Who knows?
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