This is a quick guide about:
How much lithium and cobalt might be left in the world in the earth
And, when we may run out of each (in terms of years)
Summary – How Much Lithium & Cobalt Are Left On Earth, & When Will We Run Out?
Some estimates indicate we might run out of lithium in 372 years based on current extraction rates
Some estimates indicate we might run out of cobalt in 65 years at current production rates
These estimates are a rough estimate though, and if additional proven reserves are found in the future, they may increase
We’ve discussed some other factors and considerations that might be at play with the future estimated supply of lithium and cobalt in this guide about the future supply of oil (some factors are applicable to all mined resources and energy sources)
How Much Lithium Is Left In The Earth?
In 2017, according to the USGS, there was around 16,000kt of reserves of lithium in the ground.
How Much Cobalt Is Left In The Earth?
In 2017, there were cobalt reserves of 7,100kt.
When Will We Run Out Of Lithium?
Based on the 43kt of lithium that were produced in 2017 (according to the USGS), and with 16,000kt of reserves, extraction at the current rate could continue for 372 years.
When Will We Run Out Of Cobalt?
In 2017, cobalt production (according to the USGS) was 110 thousand tonnes (kt). With reserves of 7,100kt, extraction could continue for 65 years.
What To Know About Total Metal Resources, & Metal Supply
It should be noted that proven reserves are different to the total resources of metals in the earth which haven’t been explored, tested and proven yet.
So, reserves are only a guide – they can increase or decrease over the years as more reserves are found (reserves are that which is economically viable to mine – so more resources can exist, but may not be profitable to mine).
Future demand of a particular metal can heavily impact how long we think it will last for as well.
Another factor that impacts how long we think metal resources will last for is the supply of that metal to different countries.
Read more about metal resources and metal supply in these guides: