Chinese scientists find 5 million tons of lithium deposits in Yunnan

Chinese scientists have found a major lithium deposit in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, estimated to contain more than 5 million tons.

There are approximately 40 million tons of proven lithium reserves in the world, the Xinhua News Agency’s Globe magazine reported.

A team led by research fellow Wen Hanjie from the Institute of Geochemistry under the Chinese Academy of Sciences found 340,000 tons of lithium oxide in a test site in central Yunnan.

They estimated the total amount of lithium to be in excess of 5 million tons. The lithium discovered is a new type in carbonate formation, the institute said on its website on Monday.

Lithium, a chemical element mainly contained in brines, pegmatite and clay, is viewed by some analysts as one of the most valuable metals in the first half of the 21st century.

The increasing reliance of the high-tech industry on lithium makes it an essential strategic resource for industrialized countries, analysts said.

The prices of lithium carbonate increased from less than 50,000 yuan ($7,236) per ton in October 2015 to 80,000 yuan per ton by the end of 2018. The value of the global lithium market is expected to rise from $60 trillion in 2017 to $100 trillion in 2025, the Globe magazine reported.

About 80 percent of lithium used in China from 2011 to 2015 was imported, Xinhua reported. The Institute of Geochemistry said on its website that it is urgently necessary for China to find new sources of lithium, as the country has abundant carbonate clay resources.