If you were around in the early 1940s and had a drink of 7-Up, you would have felt your mood lift a little. And that would have been thanks to an ingredient that has since been removed from the recipe – lithium!
Though lithium is no longer in your drink, it’s still hot right now. And not just because it is so reactive it can burn in air.
The lightest metal in the periodic table, lithium is a critical ingredient in batteries, electric vehicles and other technologies that are helping to decarbonise the globe.
A little story of lepidolite
Commonly a beautiful lilac to light purple in colour, lepidolite is a mineral rich in lithium. It doesn't get its colour from lithium though. Other impurities in lepidolite imbue the lavender hue. And while purples are popular, lepidolites can be found in a rainbow of colours from rose pink to lavender to grey to yellow depending on the impurities it contains.
Lepidolite is the most common lithium mineral and is found throughout Australia.
Its name is a combination of the Greek words lepis for scale and lithos for rock.
A member of the mica group of minerals, its layered structure allows it to split into thin sheets or flakes. This gives some lepidolites beautiful patterns like fish scales or flower petals.
Along with lithium, lepidolite also contains aluminium, potassium and tin. It is also a major source of rubidium which is used in atomic clocks, lasers and fireworks.
Lithium is a critical metal
Lithium is listed as a critical mineral. Demand has tripled over the last five years.
And you can understand why. Take electric vehicles. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an electric car uses around nine kilograms of lithium. A conventional car uses none.
Australia is the biggest lithium supplier in the world. In 2021, we produced over half of all lithium mined. We also have the second highest amount of global lithium resources. Most lithium mined in Australia is sourced from spodumene, but lepidolite remains a valuable source of lithium.
With more and more people using electric transport in the future, you can see why demand is growing. That’s good news for Australia.