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Lithium Development Advances in West Africa; Mali First Regional Lithium Producer

Feb 03, 2023.

Lithium development is accelerating in the West African region. Among the most promising are production in Mali and Ghana. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), of the 89 million tons of proven lithium reserves in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the top producer in Africa with 3 million tons, followed by Mali with 700,000 tons. Ghana is also in fourth place with 130,000 tons, behind Zimbabwe (500,000 tons) in third place. In addition, Cote d'Ivoire is also attracting attention for its potential, and is being explored by foreign companies.

Global demand for lithium is increasing, as it is mainly used as a raw material for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) and smartphones. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), demand for lithium-ion batteries will continue to grow and is expected to grow 48-fold by 2040 compared to 2020.

Mali is expected to become the first lithium producer in West Africa, with full-scale production scheduled to begin in 2023 at the Gramina lithium mine, 150 km from the capital Bamako. Australia's Leo Lithium, which operates the mine, has formed a partnership with China's Ganfeng Lithium, which produces lithium-ion batteries for EVs, to develop the mine. Meanwhile, Mali is a landlocked country, and in November 2022, the company signed a port services agreement with SEA-invest of Belgium, which operates a bulk cargo terminal concession at the port of Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire, for the export of concentrates. The first shipments to the Port of Abidjan are scheduled for the end of 2023. In Mali, in addition, the UK-based Kodal Minerals is developing the Bougouni mine in the south of the country.

In Ghana, the U.K.-based Atlantic Lithium has begun development at its Ewoya mine on the southern Cape Coast, where a pre-feasibility study projects lifetime mine revenues to reach $5 billion. The company has signed an equity agreement with US-based Piedmont Lithium, which supplies lithium hydroxide for the EV market.

In Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus-based Firering Strategic Minerals is conducting exploration at its Atex mine in the northwest near the border with Mali. It is currently conducting a second exploration program in collaboration with Australia's Ricca Resources, which has invested $18.6 million in the project. Also on January 25, African Gold announced the discovery of a promising vein of lithium-bearing pegmatite mineralization at its Agboville mine, where it is developing a gold mine.


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