Lithium, and Coal, in Perspective

August 18, 2022

To scale, from my friend the brilliant Kevin Pluck:

The big mine supplies single coal plant in Victoria, Australia.

The smaller one, inset, supplies 30 percent of the world’s Lithium, for batteries in all our electronic devices.

Greenbushes Mine:

Loy Yang Mine:

Another visual comparison – 70 percent of the world’s Lithium vs one coal mine:


In 2021, 277 million laptops are forecast to be shipped, with nearly 160 million tablet units shipped in the same year too. In 2025, laptop shipments are forecast to fall slightly to 272 million units. 

All of them have lithium batteries

Fun Fact: Globally, for every one ton of lithium mined, we mine 100,000 tons of coal (0.08 vs 8000 Mtonnes/year)

Add to that all the earth, overburden, and literal mountaintops blown up just to get to that coal, also add in the millions of oil wells, frack wells, offshore rigs, etc. The difference is staggering.

AND, AND, AND – Lithium can be recycled infinitely. So at some point we literally won’t have to pull any more out of the earth.

We are making a huge leap forward in environmental progress by going electric.


7 Responses to “Lithium, and Coal, in Perspective”

  1. John Oneill Says:

    In 2021 Lithium production worldwide was 100,000 tonnes. Uranium production was 48,000t, down from 63,000t five years ago. The comparison is a little deceptive, because Uranium is 35 times heavier than Lithium, so the actual volume mined is much smaller. Yet Uranium still produced 10% of the world’s electricity. The percentage that went through a Lithium battery is miniscule – 99% of the world’s electricity storage capacity is pumped hydro, and even that would supply far less than 1% of the power we use.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      That’s nice. How many electric cars use uranium?

      • John Oneill Says:

        All the ones that charge up in a grid with nuclear power in it – about 30 countries, at present. If they don’t, they’re most likely powered by fossils, unless they’re Norwegian.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          But you are trying to somehow make a point about uranium because it requires a bit less mining, but has greater density than lithium, as if they compete on either of these bases. They don’t. Such comparisons are orthagonal.

          Lithium is – for the time being – essential for EV’s. Nuclear power is not.

          • John Oneill Says:

            Lithium is also proposed as energy storage for entire countries running primarily on wind and solar. Quantities required for that would dwarf demand for EVs.

          • greenman3610 Says:

            literally dozens of non-Lithium storage solutions in the works. rollout will be scaling exponentially in the coming 5 years. Also, critical to expand and revamp transmission, no matter what energy choices we make, so that must also happen

          • John Oneill Says:

            Replacing existing coal plants with nuclear will avoid the need for both storage and new transmission.

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