China has long bucked many global economic and industrial trends. Lithium is no different. While the world in the mid-1990s became reliant on lower cost lithium derived from South American brine, China continued using spodumene concentrate as its primary source.
It is a trend that has not really changed and one totally at odds with global consumption patterns.
Chinas lithium industry has been active since the 1950s, but only in the 1980s became significant following a rise in demand for consumer driven goods.
Lithium was sourced from a spodumene and lepidolite mine located in the northern part of Xinjiang and Jiangxi provinces. As the 1980s drew to a close, imported spodumene from Australia became the main raw material source for the Chinese lithium industry together with smaller quantities of spodumene from Sichuan province.
This situation was turned on its head in the mid-1990s when Chiles SQM started to...