How Much Lithium Is Left In The World, Will We Run Out, & What Happens If We Do?

In this guide, we discuss the world’s lithium resources and reserves.

We outline how much we might have left, if we might run out and when, what might happen if we do, and more.


Summary – The World’s Lithium Resources

Uses For Lithium Across Society, & Why It’s Important

The leading use for lithium across society is in lithium batteries – electric vehicles and a range of electronics/tech. products and devices use them

We’ve listed the other uses for lithium in the guide below


How Much Lithium Is Left In The World – Resources, & Reserves

Lithium resources have increased with exploration, and are higher than total reserves at this point in time


Which Country Has The Largest Lithium Reserves?

Chile currently has the largest lithium reserves


Lithium Production

Lithium production has been around 82,500 to 100,000 tons over the last few years

Trends from the last decade, and projections for the next decade all have lithium production trending up/increasing

Some projections indicate that in future years, lithium production may reach over 1 million tons a year


Which Country Produces The Most Lithium?

Australia currently produces the most lithium

However, different types of lithium can be produced, and different countries may produce more of certain types of lithium than others


Lithium Demand & Consumption

The same trend applies here as to production – lithium demand projects to be trending up year on year


Lithium Shortages

Some reports indicate that recently there’s been an oversupply of lithium

However, other reports indicate that supply is starting to diverge from demand, and in the mid term future, lithium shortages could arise if certain market conditions arise (which we outline in the guide below)


Are We Running Out Of Lithium Now, & Will We Run Out In The Future?

It doesn’t appear likely we run out in the short term.

However, lithium reserves may start to deplete at a faster rate, depending on factors like future demand (especially in electric vehicles and batteries), and how we manage lithium as a resource going forward.


How Many Years Worth Of Lithium Do We Have Left?

Different estimates range anywhere from roughly 20 years, up to over 200 years.

These estimates are very rough in nature though, and there’s not really a definitive answer to this question.

It depends on different variables.


What Happens If We Run Out Of Lithium?

As any resources starts to be depleted, factors like availability of that resource, as well as price and affordability can be impacted


Is Lithium A Renewable Resource?

Technically it isn’t.

There is a number of things that might be done to manage lithium resources in a more sustainable way though.


Managing Lithium Resources More Sustainably

In the guide below, we discuss different ways lithium might be managed more sustainably across society

In particular, we discuss secondary uses for used batteries containing lithium, recycling lithium, and substituting lithium with other minerals, metals and materials


What Lithium Is Used For Across Society, & Why Lithium Is Important

At this point in time, one the leading uses of lithium is in lithium-ion batteries across a range of applications

In particular rechargeable lithium batteries are used for electric vehicles and various electronic and tech. devices and products

A significant share of future demand for lithium is forecast to be driven by the penetration of electric vehicles into the transport industry, according to various reports

The second largest global end use market for lithium is is ceramics and glass indicates that ‘Although lithium markets vary by location, [the two largest] global end-use markets are estimated as … batteries, 74%; [and] ceramics and glass, 14% …’

According to the end use markets provided by, the remaining end uses for lithium are:

– Lubricating greases

– Continuous casting mold flux powders

– Polymer production

– Air treatment

– And other uses


[Lithium is used in electric car batteries alongside Graphite, Manganese, Nickel, Cobalt] (


[In 2018, 56 percent of raw lithium material was used in batteries] (


How Much Lithium Is Left In The World? – Resources, & Reserves

Lithium resources have increased with exploration, and are higher than total reserves at this point in time



Owing to continuing exploration, identified lithium resources have increased substantially worldwide and total about 89 million tons (



[The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report indicates that the latest world lithium reserves are 22,000,000 metric tons] (


The total global reserves are estimated at 14 million tons. This corresponds to 165 times the production volume in 2018 (


Countries With The Largest Lithium Reserves

Chile has the largest lithium reserves, with Australia the second largest



[The countries with the largest lithium reserves are Chile at 9,200,000 metric tons, Australia at 5,700,000, Argentina at 2,200,000, and China at 1,500,00] has the same numbers as, and indicates these numbers are from 2021.


Total Lithium Production, & Production Trends Over Time

Lithium production can vary depending on the year

Production appears to be trending up (increasing), and, some forecasts have production increasing significantly in the next few decades


Total Production

[The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report indicates that excluding US production] worldwide lithium production in 2021 increased by 21% to approximately 100,000 tons from 82,500 tons in 2020 … 

[It’s worth noting though that these numbers exclude the US because of the limited number of producers, and data was withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data] 


In 2018, there was 85,000 tons of lithium production worldwide (


Past Production Trends

[From 2008 to 2018, there’s been a 335 percent increase in lithium production] (


Future Production Forecasts

Production of [lithium] is set to almost triple by 2025 to more than 1.5 million metric tons … (


Countries That Produce The Most Lithium

Australia is the largest producer of lithium of all countries, followed by Chile



The countries that produced the most lithium in 2021, in terms of tonnes of min production, were:

Australia – 55,000

Chile – 26,000

China – 14,000

Argentina – 6,200


Lithium is mainly sourced from either spodumene or brine. Australia is home to the majority of hard rock (spodumene) mines, while brine production is concentrated in South America, mainly in Chile and Argentina (


Lithium Demand & Consumption

Demand for lithium can vary from year to year

Demand for lithium appears to be trending up


Current Demand

Global consumption of lithium in 2021 was estimated to be 93,000 tons, a 33% increase from 70,000 tons in 2020 (


[In 2020] lithium demand was about 320,000 tonnes … (


Future Demand

[… various reports indicate that …]  growth in EVs could see lithium demand increase by over 40 times by 2030. [In 2020] lithium demand was about 320,000 tonnes and is expected to hit 1 million by 2025 and 3 million by 2030, according to Reuters (


Lithium Shortages – Have They Happened, & What Are The Reasons For Them?

Recently, there’s been an oversupply of lithium for various reasons.

In the future, there may be a possibility of shortages if demand significantly increases and investment in the lithium supply chain isn’t at an adequate level to meet demand.

An inability to scale up lithium production quickly may also come into play, as well as the ability to convert mined/extracted lithium material into refined/usable lithium (this is called downstream lithium conversion).

(We talk more about the projections for lithium supply and demand in the next section)


Past Periods Of Oversupply


Lithium prices plummeted in 2019, as the market tipped into oversupply and EV growth slowed [which was partially due to subsidy cuts for EVs in China]

… [Other factors that played a role were] New mines and increased production [as well as inefficient] downstream conversion capacity [of raw material into lithium chemicals] … in China 

[Currently, there’s still a] present oversupply …


Forecasts For Future Shortages


Lithium shortages will get worse [in 2022] and may continue into the middle of the decade.

It is important to remember that building a lithium mine takes seven years and … much like chip fabrication plants, there isn’t a lot of room for just increasing capacity [for production]

[Although] lithium production [is set to increase] to meet demand … Experts say there are bottlenecks in the conversion processes needed to produce usable lithium. Plants take years to reach full production and this, combined with accelerating demand, means supplies will remain tight and prices high …


Are We Running Out Of Lithium, & Will We Run Out Of Lithium?

It doesn’t appear that we will run out of lithium in the short term based on the data available.

However, there may be potential for lithium shortages or supply deficits in the mid to long term, depending on demand from products like electric vehicles and other sustainable technology that uses lithium. 

Level of investment in the lithium supply chain might also play a key role too, according to various reports.

We’ve discussed some factors that might impact future supplies of lithium in this guide about the future supply of oil (some factors are applicable to all mined resources and energy sources)

We’ve also discussed in a separate guide why we might never run out of some mined resources


Supply & Demand Right Now

Some reports indicate that there’s an oversupply of lithium right now

Other reports indicate that supply and demand are currently diverging in the direction of demand outstripping supply:


The rising price of lithium demonstrates what many in the industry have warned about for some time: the growing divergence between supply and demand for lithium (



Carbon-free power and gasoline-free transportation cannot exist without mining an absurd amount of lithium.

Right now, production is not even close to keeping up. We simply aren’t pulling enough lithium out of the ground to match the projected demand


Forecasts For Supply & Demand In The Future


Production … by 2025 [is projected to triple, due to] New mines and brine lakes, coupled with expanded output from several existing projects. [But] there are concerns that a fall in upstream investment could flip the market into undersupply further out

… caution among investors … suggests potential for a tighter supply picture in the later part of the next decade

… lithium demand [might] increase 10-fold over the next decade [if EV penetration increases]


When Will We Run Out Of Lithium? … How Many Years Worth Of Lithium Do We Have Left?

At this point in time, it’s not possible to give an accurate answer on when we might run out of lithium, or how many years worth of lithium we might have left.

Only rough estimates can be made.

As one example of an estimate, total reserves of 22,000,000 metric tons might be divided by an annual consumption total of 93,000 tons, equalling 236.5 years worth of reserves left.

If we go by’s reserve volume of 14 million tons instead, and divide it by production volume in 2018, they indicate reserves are 165x what production volume is – so, there might be 165 years worth of reserves left in this instance.

These of course are not definitive forecasts though.


One report has a much shorter projection for how much lithium might be left. indicates:

PV Magazine states [we could run out of lithium …] as soon as 2040, assuming electric cars demand 20 million tons of lithium by then. Or it could be closer to 2100, giving us 100 years …


What Happens If We Run Out Of Lithium?

Running out of any resource may impact things such as:

– The availability of that resource for the key things we use it for across society.

Specifically for lithium, the use of lithium in lithium batteries (for electric vehicles and electronics and tech products in particular) might be affected significantly


– The price of that resource as it becomes more scarce, and consequently, the affordability of the things we use that resource for 

The price of resources increasing as reserves are depleted is something we mentioned in our guide about why we may not run out of mined resources anytime soon.


Is Lithium A Renewable Resource?

No, it’s not.

Lithium is finite, and it takes far longer to form in nature than the rate it is consumed at across society.

Having said that, there might be ways to manage the lithium we’ve already extracted more sustainably, so that lithium’s non renewable status becomes less of an issue in some ways.


Managing Lithium Resources More Sustainably

There might be a range of ways to manage lithium more sustainably, including but not limited to:

– Reducing consumption and demand for lithium

– Re-using lithium

– Recycling lithium

– Substituting lithium where possible


These options and others might place less of a burden on extracting new lithium in the future.


Re-Using Lithium

In some instances, batteries that use lithium are being given a secondary use (after their primary use comes to an end) and repurposed as stationary energy storage systems

The materials used in the battery may then be recycled afterwards


Recycling Lithium 

It’s possible to recycle lithium, however, there can be various challenges in doing so, such as cost, and technological limitations.

There’s issues specific to metal recycling, and also e-waste recycling (which contains various metals) to consider.

Currently, various reports indicate that the recycling rate for lithium-ion batteries is low.

It might be fair to say that this is something that can be researched further, and improved.


Recycling Of Lithium In The Present

The recycling rate of lithium-ion batteries is still low at under 5% [and] The main reasons for this are cost and the complexity of recycling methods ( indicates that one company in Canada has been recycling lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries since the 1990’s. There’s also 25 companies in the US and Europe currently recycling lithium-ion batteries, or planning to do so.


Recycling Of Lithium In The Future


In the long term, a large proportion of the raw materials used [in Volkswagen Group’s pure electric vehicles] will be recycled – this would reduce the need for “new” lithium.

However, this is unlikely to make itself felt until 2030, when used batteries will be returned in large quantities


Substitutes For Lithium Across Different Applications

The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report indicates that it’s possible to substitute lithium compounds in a range of applications (they list these applications in their report)

It’s worth considering though, as we identified in our guide about how much cobalt might be left in the world, substituting some minerals/metals can come with cost and performance tradeoffs




1. (accessing the USGS ‘Mineral Commodities Summary Report’)











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