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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Singleton, Richard H.; Searls, James P.
Lithium,   pp. 551-558 PDF (807.2 KB)


Page 551

  551Lithium 
By Richard H. Singleton and James P. Searls1 
 The United States continued to be both the world's largest producer and
the world's largest consumer of lithium minerals and chemicals. The United
States was selfsufficient in this commodity and was the world's largest exporter.
Production declined an estimated 5% in 1978 and stayed at that level in 1979.
Imports were insignificant in 1978 and were minor in 1979. Exports were estimated
to have increased in 1978 by 11% and in 1979 by 20%. Estimated apparent consumption
declined 17% in 1978 and 15% in 1979. 
 World supply of lithium as mineral concentrates and brines declined about
7% to 8,300 short tons of contained lithium in 1978 and rose to 8,500 tons
in 1979. World consumption (after processing losses) was estimated to be
down 7% in 1978 to 7,100 short tons of contained lithium and up 6% in 1979
to 7,500 short tons of contained lithium. Aluminum production continued to
be the world's largest end use for lithium. About one-third of U.S. and one-fifth
of Western European aluminum potlines used lithium. Lithium was apparently
not used in Japanese aluminum potlines in 1978 but its use in 1979 was uncertain.
 The People's Republic of China tentatively entered the market with exports
of 1 metric ton of lithium hydroxide and nearly 11 metric tons of lithium
carbonate to Japan in 1979. 
 The United States and the U.S.S.R. are the primary lithium producers. The
United States continued to supply about threefourths of demand in nonproducing
coun 
tries; the remainder was supplied by the U.S.S.R. as chemicals, and by Zimbabwe
(Rhodesia) as mineral concentrate. China is producing small amounts for export
while Brazil, Portugal, and Argentina produce mostly for internal consumption.
The Federal Republic of Germany and Japan are large importers of lithium
carbonate, which they convert for use or resale to their export markets.
France, Belgium, and the Netherlands also import for conversion and resale.
Australia has not produced lithium ores since 1974. Termination of lithium
production in 1978 by Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. in California resulted in
two approximately equal sized producers in the United States. 
 Legislation and Government Programs.—In 1978 the General Services
Administration (GSA) sold about 30 short tons (5 short tons of contained
lithium) of lithium hydroxide monohydrate. This material is excess from a
nuclear weapons program, not from the Strategic Stockpile. GSA reports that
it has 11,500 short tons (1,898 short tons of contained lithium) of virgin
lithium hydroxide monohydrate and 28,500 short tons (4,703 short tons of
contained lithium) of depleted lithium hydroxide monohydrate (depleted of
lithium 6) that may contain 8 to 9 parts per million of mercury. None of
these materials were sold in 1979. 
 The U.S. Congress voted in late fall of 1979 to lift the trade sanctions
with Zimbabwe (Rhodesia). This again will allow direct exporting of Zimbabwean
lithium ores to the United States. 


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