An official science publication in China is trumpeting what its quoted geologists called a “breakthrough” discovery of lithium in the same region as Mount Everest.
The hard-rock resource has the potential to host the third-biggest mine of its kind in China, according to ScienceNet.cn, a website backed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, or CAS. It’s located some 3 kilometers from the Qiongjiagang peak in the region of the world’s highest mountain.
To be sure, it’s an early-stage discovery, and there’s plenty of global mineral deposits that look promising but end up not being viable.
But the world needs massive amounts of new lithium supplies to feed accelerating demand in electric vehicles and energy storage. And for China, finding viable domestic sources would be welcome as the country relies on imports for more than 70% of its supplies, even as it dominates global battery production.
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The newly-discovered resource is a type of lithium-bearing rock called spodumene, an alternative to the brine lakes that dominate supply in China and in South America. The ore deposit on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau could hold as much as 1.0125 million tons of lithium oxide, according to the cited CAS geologists.
The project is still in the very first of four stages, with the final being full exploration to come up with a detailed mine plan, according to the report. The potential mine site is also far from the core nature reserve of Mount Everest and has suitable transport links, the cited experts said.
The media attention on this mineral find comes with prices of lithium rocketing higher amid tight supplies. Lithium carbonate in China gained more than 400% in China last year, and nearly 50% so far in 2022.
(By Annie Lee, with assistance from Ocean Hou, Kevin Ding and Peng Xu)