The demand for lithium is rapidly increasing due to the world’s growing reliance on electric vehicles, smartphones, and other electronic devices. The mineral is crucial in the production of these products. But what is the ore mined for lithium extraction?
This post examines the different ores used to extract lithium and where they are found. We’ll also explore how and where it is processed and its importance to our economy and the environment.
Ores Mined for Lithium Extraction
Spodumene is one of the most commonly mined lithium ores, primarily found in Australia. It’s a mineral consisting of lithium aluminum silicate, often used in electric vehicles.
Spodumene is first processed using either the flotation or acid-roast method. This step extracts the lithium from the ore and creates a solution with suspended lithium ions. The next step is to separate the ions from other elements by dispersing them in a water solution, from which they can then be easily collected and concentrated.
Lepidolite is a major source of lithium minerals, primarily mined in Brazil and Portugal. Containing lithium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen, lepidolite is considered one of the most important sources of lithium for electric vehicles. The ore is further processed in a specialized mining processing plant to extract valuable lithium ions. This method combines gravity separation and flotation techniques to generate high-quality lithium concentrate.
Petalite ore is one of the more commonly used ores for extracting lithium, primarily in Zimbabwe and Canada. It contains lithium, aluminum, and silicon.
To process petalite, gravity separation and flotation methods are used. First, it’s crushed and milled before being subjected to a screening process to sift out the undissolved particles. Then, it undergoes magnetic separation, which divides elements in the ore according to their magnetism properties. After that, it goes through electrostatic separation to separate the heavier components from the lighter ones. Finally, the ore undergoes froth flotation, which uses chemical reagents to selectively adhere particles to air bubbles while excluding other particles in the ore.
Amblygonite is often found within pegmatites, a type of igneous rock near certain underground waters.
When it comes to lithium extraction, amblygonite has a few advantages over other ore sources:
- Lithium ions in the ore are more easily extracted using traditional processing methods.
- A simpler extraction process results in fewer contaminants in the end product.
- Mining amblygonite consumes less energy compared to mining other sources like spodumene or other lithium-bearing clays.
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