Analysing The Political Economy

Ukraine: Huge Lithium Deposits Found Just Before Invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of a “special military operation” last month and quickly got on with the task of killing and maiming innocent civilians whilst destroying everything in the path of his war machine in Ukraine.

According to Putin – his objective of the operation was the “denazification” and “demilitarisation” of Ukraine after Kyiv stubbornly opposed the independence of the Donbas region and refused point blank to renounce the possibility of NATO membership.

Shortly before Putin moved his battle troops into Ukraine, the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, located in Brighton UK – published the results of their latest studies. Researchers Svitlana Vasylenko and Uliana Naumenko announced that – “Ukraine has great opportunities to become one of the world’s leading lithium producers.”

Further evidence of this ‘white gold’ find comes from the journal Scientific Collection Interconf which revealed – “Ukrainian deposits could be as much as 500,000 tonnes of lithium oxide, in the form of petalite, spodumene or lithium carbonate.

For context, Lithium is trading today at $77USD per kilo or £77,000USD per metric tonne. It would add 20 per cent to Ukraine’s pre-war economy for years to come.

Is it any coincidence that most of this Lithium find is located in the Donbas region?

Rod Schoonover, former director of the National Intelligence Council’s Environment and Natural Resources Directorate, told The New York Times – “Lithium may not be the reason for the invasion, but there is a reason why Ukraine is so important to Russia. And that is its mineral base.” According to Schoonover, Moscow is trying to position itself in the lithium war, which will shape the future of the technology and mobility sectors.

Not only does the Donbas account for 20 per cent of Ukraine’s GDP already – it could add another 20 per cent quite easily.

Lithium has special importance. It is essential in the production of electric car batteries, wind power plants and mobile phones to name just a few of the technologies we currently use.  But the resulting increase in demand, especially now that Putin has invaded Ukraine – has caused the price of Lithium to rise by more than 440% in the last twelve months alone, or 80 per cent this year – so far.

The exponential growth in the use of electric cars, reaching record sales records year on year, are of course, fully submerged in what is really a race to acquire Lithium reserves. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has clearly stated that the market for strategic minerals such as Lithium could quadruple in just fifteen years.

It is needless to say that the global mining of Lithium is such that demand will continue to rise significantly – as will the price of it. Energy transition depends on it.

Before Vasylenko and Naumenko’s announcement about Ukraine’s Lithium deposits, the international community had already turned raised an eyebrow knowing that Putin’s offensive would stop any strategic alliance for a digital energy transition between Volodymir Zelensky and Brussels – or at least to put it on hold.

Atalayar reported that – “two Chinese and Australian companies, Chengxin Lithium and European Lithium respectively, which announced in November their interest in bidding for exploration permits for the Shevchenkivske deposit – a spodumene deposit located in Donetsk, in the Donbas region – and the Dobra deposit – in the “Ukrainian Shield”.

Of course, there is the dichotomy of competing interests. For the West, especially the EU, these Lithium deposits represent an opportunity to reduce its dependence on Russian oil. For Russia, being able to withhold these deposits from the markets increases demand for its own oil.

Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (known as the “Lithium triangle”) along with China hold most of the world’s Lithium deposits, currently accounting for nearly 90 per cent of total global demand.

One last fact worth noting. Europe’s need for rare earth metals is expected to increase tenfold in just twenty five years, and according to the World Bank, production of minerals such as Lithium should exceed current production levels by somewhere between 400 and 500 per cent. That would put Ukraine’s deposit somewhere in the $trillions, not billions. It’s called ‘white gold’ for a reason, and the fight for resources may well be driving at least some of the efforts in securing it from places like the USA and EU in this conflict.



European financial review Logo

The European Financial Review is the leading financial intelligence magazine read widely by financial experts and the wider business community.