MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan. 06, 2023: Beginning lithium mining in 1983, Western Australia is now famously home to the largest lithium mine in the world. Over the years, as lithium has become a more valuable, in-demand metal, Australia has risen to the task of being the primary lithium supplier around the globe. But consumers are increasingly wondering whether there’s a sustainable path forward for the lithium mining industry – It Matters to You, provider of auto recycling and cash for cars Melbourne-wide, reveals what the future may look like for the Australian lithium mining industry.
Greenbushes, located just outside of Perth, Western Australia, currently supplies around 40 percent of Australia’s lithium output – altogether, Australia produces approximately 50 percent of the world’s lithium, closely followed by select South American countries. This lithium is, in part, used to manufacture the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs); EVs are, of course, seen by many to be a catch-all solution for climate change. However, the hard rock mining used in Australia to produce lithium and the subsequent refining processes are proving to be anything but sustainable.
It Matters to You explains that once lithium is mined in Australia, the rock that it’s found in must be crushed and roasted to produce a material called spodumene, which contains around six percent lithium. Once the rock has undergone this process, it’s sent off to China, where it’s refined – all of these steps, even the shipping, are having a constant, negative impact on the environment.
All is not lost, according to It Matters to You. The state government of WA has plans to build a number of refining facilities on home soil in close proximity to the lithium mines – thus eliminating the need to ship rock to China.
Environmental groups are keeping a close eye on the lithium mining industry as a whole in order to identify ways to decarbonise and reduce the industry’s environmental impact.
Experts argue that no matter how small the positive changes, if they are implemented now, they will have substantial effects far into the future. These changes will shape the way EVs are manufactured, making them a far more environmentally friendly option than they are at present.