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Energy Insiders Podcast October 10

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Do we have enough lithium? It’s a question often asked as the world prepres for a massive switch to electric vehicles and battery storage.

The answer, says Richard Seville, the head of Australian lithium miner Orocobre, is yes, there is enough lithium. Just how quickly and cheaply that can be extracted is another matter.

Seville discusses Orocobre’s own project in Argentina, along with the technical, environmental and market hurdles.

Globally, policy is moving forward, but in Australia he laments, the conversation is only about coal.

We take the opportunity to assess the latest genuflections on the clean energy target, the admission by the Coalition that having renewables need not add to costs, but the abject refusal of its right wing to countenance any such measures.

It is another fun and invigorating podcast.

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  • Nick Sharp

    Giles, I asked you the same question some time ago at a meeting we both attended in USYD. You said yes, as does Richard Seville.

    I think it would be good to have quantitative answers rather than assurances. The data will be hard to come by and will include many assumptions. It will include factors such as EV and Powerwall demands, just how well we recycle the metal, and whether additional sources come on stream, such as especially the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salar_de_Uyuni#Economic_influence

    Also, perhaps the lithium battery era will not last, if better technologies emerge as technically and commercially viable.

    • Mark Roest

      Yes to the latter. We’re working on rounding 3rd base with no lithium, cobalt or nickel, and no rare earths. Could be commercial in 2 years.

  • riley222

    Any of earths bounty is finite, the point for me is that external energy, solar, is infinite in terms of the likely lifespan of the human race.
    When you start thinking about it maybe the budgie smuggler is right, in a weird sort of way maybe it won’t matter a jot.

  • Simon

    Hmmmm…nowhere in this interview did I hear it acknowledged that Australia is likely to supply over 50% of the global lithium market this year after supplying more than 40% last year. Australia is the world’s largest lithium supplier and is responsible for making this battery revolution possible. https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/lithium/

    In addition, the battery industry is one of the very rare industries that is stimulating downstream investment with major lithium chemical and nickel chemical operations under construction. Let’s hope copper gets in on the act as well given we host one of the world’s highest grade copper mines.

    Next should be battery component manufacturing. However, that may require targeted policies – as Chile have done. Chile, the next major lithium supplier after Australia – has identified this opportunity and has developed policy aimed at attracting some of the world’s leading battery component companies which appears to be having success.

    Australia needs to do the same – otherwise we risk enabling this global transition while at the same time ending up with a negative trade balance.