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China announces ‘breakthrough’ discovery of lithium deposit in Mt Everest area

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(TibetanReview.net, Feb17’22) – China says it has made what it called a “breakthrough” discovery of lithium deposit in the Qiongjiagang peak region of Mount Qomolangma (Mt Everest) in occupied Tibet. China dominates the global battery production but currently relies on imports for more than 70% of its supplies of lithium for the purpose, with its price rising sharply recently.

This lithium deposit might hopefully become the third largest after the Bailong Mountain site in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the Jiajika lithium deposit in Sichuan Province, reported China’s official globatimes.cn Feb 15, citing China Science Daily.

The media attention on this mineral find comes with prices of lithium rocketing higher amid tight supplies. Lithium carbonate in China gained more than 400% in China last year, and nearly 50% so far in 2022, noted bloomberg.com Feb 16.

A research team affiliated with the Institute of Geology and Geophysics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences had found four mineral belts in the Qiongjiagang region in the summer of 2021 with a total length of more than 1,000 meters, and with two of the ore belts being 100 metres wide, reported min.news/en/ Feb 17, citing Qin Kezhang, head of the research team.

Qin has said there were about 1.01 million tons of lithium oxide in the mine, based on “quite conservative” calculations. He has also said the average content rate of lithium oxide was about 1.3%, which is well above the 0.8% content needed for having industrial value for mining.

A sample of a rock with lithium in the newly discovered site in Tibet.
(Photo courtesy: Chinese Academy of Sciences)

He has said that of the 59 samples the team collected from the site, 44 met the standards for industrial exploitation.

Qin has said conditions for carrying out mining operation in Qiongjiagang area was good. Particles of spodumene, a pyroxene mineral that is a source of lithium, are relatively large, about 10 cm to 20 cm, which are easy to extract. Transportation in the area is convenient and its geography is also favourable for industrial exploitation. Besides, the area is far from the core of the nature reserve of Mount Qomolangma, Qin has added, indicating that the mining work may be environmentally hazardous for the local ecology as well as residents’ health and livelihood.

Qin has cautioned, however, that the project was still at the initial stage of “pre-study” of the lithium ore as currently they only know the distribution range and the types and contents of useful elements. It is a four-stage process from discovery to exploitation, and pre-study, the first of them, is needed to determine the location and general situation of the mine, he has added.

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