Monday, June 14, 2010

Made in Afghanistan

Many of you have probably heard the criticism against lithium batteries in that we are now dependent on a single resource for our energy storage needs. The trouble being that we substitute from one imported reserve for our transportation needs to another. And lithium is abundant in Bolivia and China (on the Tibetan plateau)- Two countries where US influence is weak. Now comes a report in the New York Times that the US has found vast reserves on lithium in Afghanistan. See
They also found copper, cobalt, etc., but its the lithium part that is intriguing to me. Apparently the reports coming out are that there is "potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia".
Now, in the short-term (i.e., a few lithium-based batteries in cars) there is no reason for any concern or interest in this story. There is more lithium than we need. If (and this is a big if), there is a significant conversion of the automotive fleet to batteries, lithium-based ones make the most sense. In this scenario, we can get lithium limited. But we are not talking about just running out of the metal (which could happen if we convert all our cars), its more the question of: can we mine the metal at the rate we will consume it. Obviously, just because we find deposits, this does not mean we can exploit it.
We shall have to wait and see what this means to the USGS estimates of lithium reserves. And I wonder if proximity of resources will play into which countries will take a lead in battery manufacturing. In the mean time, I'm sure all you conspiracy theorists will have a field day speculating on the cause for the war in Afghanistan.



  1. If you read down in the articles, you'll find that most of this is old news: the AP article says, "Most of the data on Afghanistan's mineral resources was produced between the early 1950s and 1985." Curious that it has become front page news now. The lithium, so far as I can tell, has not been reported before, but this may be because it was not of interest before.

    1. @rfritz , Thanks for sharing the article a

  2. It isn't clear from the USGS report whether the lithium in Afghanistan is tied up in the form of spodumene or available as a brine from a salt lake. It's been known for a long time that Afghanistan has a lot of spodumene, but it's much more expensive and difficult to process into a useable precursor for lithium battery materials than are the brines. That, and the political instability and dangers of Afghanistan make it very unlikely that we'll be getting our lithium from them any time soon. Much easier to stick with the high-quality lithium from Chile and Argentina. Either that, or we have to develop sodium ion batteries. ;-)

  3. Wow souns really interesting @rftriz and @marca said.