11 July 2024

The Department of Primary Industries and Mines has explained that there appears to be a misunderstanding that two major lithium deposits in Phang-nga province have been found to contain 14.8 million tonnes of lithium, making Thailand the world’s third largest source of lithium, after Bolivia and Argentina.

The department clarified that, in fact, lepidolite, not lithium, has been found in pegmatite rocks at the two deposits, Ruangkiet and E-thum, and the lepidolite contains about 0.45% lithium, which is not much but rich enough to have commercial potential in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

According to Geology.com, Lepidolite is a rare lithium-rich mica mineral which is usually pink, red or purple in colour. It is the most common lithium-bearing mineral and serves as a minor ore of lithium metal, with rubidium and caesium sometimes being by-products.

The department also said there is a possibility that more lithium deposits could be found in Thailand if more exploration is conducted. Currently, concessions have been granted for lithium exploration in three locations in Phang-nga province and several applications for exploration permits are pending for other places in Ratchaburi and Yala provinces.

The department added that it will accelerate exploration for lithium, to support the government’s ambition to transform Thailand into the regional centre for the production of lithium-ion batteries and EVs.

Meanwhile, Professor Dr. Jessada Denduangboripant, at the Faculty of Science of Chulalongkorn University, said in his Facebook post yesterday that he thinks that reporters might have misunderstood the figures of lithium deposits, about 14.8 million tonnes, as declared by Deputy Government Spokesperson Radklao Inthawong Suwankiri.

He said that, in fact, the figure is the estimated amount of pegmatite rock found in the two deposits which, according to his estimate, could produce 60,000-70,000 tonnes of lithium.

Based on a Tesla Model S EV, which uses about 62.6kgs of lithium in its batteries, he said that one million EVs would require about 62,600 tonnes of lithium, which is close to the estimated amount of lithium extractable from 14.8 million tonnes of pegmatite rock.

Dr. Jessada said that Thailand remains far behind the world’s top lithium producing countries:

  1. Bolivia, 21 million tonnes
  2. Argentina, 20 million tonnes
  3. Chili, 11 million tonnes
  4. Australia, 7.9 million tonnes
  5. China, 6.8 million tonnes