Thai government clarifies on lithium discovery after experts debunk claims

It is estimated that there are about 93 million tonnes of lithium resources in the world, most of which are in South America.  — AFP

BANGKOK: The 14.8 million tonnes of mineral resources discovered recently in Phang Nga province may not be entirely lithium, a rare mineral which is a key component for making batteries for electric vehicles (EV), a government official clarified on Jan 20.

“The 14.8 million tonnes discovered are the total amount of mineral resources and not lithium resources,” deputy government spokeswoman Radklao Inthawong Suwankiri said. “Mineral resources could contain several kinds of minerals, including lithium.”

Earlier on Jan 18, Radklao quoted an Industry Ministry report which confirmed the capacities of the Ruangkiat and Bang Etu sites in Phang Nga province, south of Thailand.

The report said the sites contained lepidolite, which has an average lithium oxide of 0.45 per cent. With proper mining and refining operations, the sites could produce raw material to make lithium-ion batteries for at least one million units of 50 kWh electric vehicles.

Radklao said on Jan 18 that the finding of high lithium content in Phang Nga makes Thailand the country with the third-largest lithium resources after Bolivia and Argentina.

However, on Jan 20 she quoted the Department of Primary Industries and Mines as saying that the earlier report was a misunderstanding, as the discovery confirmed availability of mineral resources and not purely lithium resources.

This also invalidates the claim that Thailand has the third-largest lithium resources in the world.

“The discovery of 14.8 million tonnes of mineral resources is still a good news for all Thais, regardless of the amount of lithium found,” said Radklao.

“All key mineral resources found in Thailand, be they lithium, sodium or potash, can contribute to the country’s economic stability and reduce reliance on import.”

She added that the government is committed to promoting the EV industry in Thailand under its EV3.5 campaign, which also includes promoting Thailand to be a hub of EV battery manufacturing in the region.

The government’s clarification on Jan 20 came after several parties criticised the report of lithium discovery in Phang Nga as inaccurate.

Chulalongkorn University science lecturer Jessada Denduangboripant posted on his Facebook page on Jan 19 that the average amount of lithium that could be extracted from 14.8 million tonnes of mineral resources is only about 66,600 tonnes.

It is estimated that there are about 93 million tonnes of lithium resources in the world, most of which are in South America.

The top 10 countries with confirmed lithium resources are Bolivia (21 million tonnes), Argentina (20 million), Chile (11 million), Australia (7.9 million), China (6.8 million), Germany (3.2 million), Congo (3 million), Canada (2.9 million), Mexico (1.7 million), and Czech Republic (1.3 million).

“With 66,600 tonnes of lithium, Thailand will be ranked in 22nd place, between Finland (68,000) and Austria (60,000),” he said. — The Nation
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