Africa’s lithium supply to almost triple this year – Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

The claims are close to the Arcadia lithium mine, which began production this year. (Image courtesy of Huayou Cobalt.)

Lithium production from Africa is projected to almost triple in 2024 compared to the previous year, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

In 2023, the region contributed 4% to global lithium production, but this year it’s expected to reach 10% of the global supply. This significant surge is largely due to increased Chinese investment in the continent.

Chinese companies hold a virtual monopoly on lithium extraction in Africa, with over 90% of the continent’s projected lithium supply for this decade stemming from projects partly owned by Chinese entities, as estimated by Benchmark.

Most of the increased supply is expected to come from Zimbabwe. It is estimated that the country produced 3,400 tonnes in 2023, placing it among the seven largest producers globally.

The country is home to Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt’s Arcadia lithium mine, one of the world’s largest lithium-producing operations with a capacity of up to 450,000 tonnes of lithium concentrate per year.

Chinese interest in Africa reflects its strategy to secure critical minerals necessary for clean energy technologies.

Despite China possessing only 11% of global lithium reserves, it refines 60-70% of the metal, according to the US Geological Survey.