In the National Research Council report the authors adopted their own definitions of reserves and resources ranging from reserves proven by systematic exploration to resources where economic lithium extraction was probably dependent upon the marketing of co-products or the development of new technologies.
Stricter classifications require that the term ‘reserves’ apply only to material that can be economically produced at the time of determination. The term also implies that the material can be extracted with existing technology at a specific price-usually the prevailing market price.
Neither technologies nor prices are ‘fixed’ and this report is written at a time when a major increase in demand seems a strong possibility.
Potential large scale consumers need to know what could be available over a long period whether a particular source is fully proven or not.
The report lists a total of 28.5 million tonnes of lithium, equivalent to nearly 150.0 million tonnes of lithium carbonate – equal to 1775 years of supply at the current rate of demand (approximately 16,000 tpa Li).
Lithium in pegmatites, continental brines, geothermal brines, oilfield brines and hectorites total 7.6 million, 17.7 million, 0.3 million, 0.75 million and 2.0 million tonnes respectively.
Lithium at current or planned pegmatite operations, assuming that 60% of the Chinese pegmatites are active, totals 840,000 tonnes and at active or proposed brine operation totals 12.25 million tonnes.