Spodumene deposits in Pakistan yet to be exploited

October 05, 2022

Faiza Tehseen

Deposits of spodumene – a pyroxene-type mineral considered a primary source for lithium extraction – in Pakistan need indigenous extraction and processing, reports WealthPK.

The international market size of spodumene is expected to grow at an average rate of US$2,235 per ton in the year 2022 from US$675 per ton in the year 2021. Its price is expected to ease to around US$1800 per ton by the year 2024 due to the high rate of mining, while the market of its important concentrate, lithium, is projected to grow to US$516.22 million at the CAGR of 6% by the year 2028 from US$343.22 million in 2021 (taken as the base year).

Talking to WealthPK about the economic value of spodumene, Principal Geologist at the Global Mining Company, Islamabad and former GM Geology at the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) Muhammad Yaqub Shah said, “Spodumene is a principal ore to extract Lithium and is also a good source of ceramic material. It is a pyroxene mineral consisting of lithium aluminium inosilicates and its prismatic crystals are also used as a semi-precious gemstone. It is formed in the Pegmatitic rocks/lithium-bearing granite pegmatites.”

He said a good ratio of lithium was reported from the pegmatite rocks of upper Chitral and a medium ratio from Lower Chitral (GB province of Pakistan). Lithium content found from the spodumene of Chitral ranges from 1 to 2%.

“Gilgit Baltistan (GB) is located in the Hindukush Mountain range and stretches towards Nuristan (Afghanistan) and onward. The spodumene of Nuristan contains traces of lithium up to 4% and these days Peshawar has become its central market for foreign buyers. It must be checked.”

Sharing his views about the economic value of spodumene in a discussion with WealthPK, Assistant Director Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) Yasir Shaheen said, “Spodumene is a pyroxene-type mineral which is also considered as a primary source to extract lithium. It is further used for industrial purposes i.e., automotive batteries, pyroceram, mobile phones, medicines, as a fluxing agent, and as a versatile ceramic material, possessing high thermal tolerance, low expansion, and durability.”

The demand for spodumene depends upon the lithium usage. The increasing demand for lithium drives its demand. These days, lithium is mostly considered a battery metal. It is also possible to replace it with another battery metal i.e., cobalt. The gem quality spodumene is also high in demand but it is rarely over two carats. The most famous gem-quality spodumene varieties are Kunzite, Hiddenite, Triphane, etc.

Triphane or yellow-coloured spodumene rarely occurs. It is interesting to know that word “Triphane” was used from the 1800s to the early 1900s referring to spodumene as a mineral. Any use of this word from that era refers to minerals but after the 1900s it represents the gem quality of Spodumene in yellow colour.

Spodumene in emerald green colour is known as “Hiddenite”. It is also the rarest gem variety of spodumene. Pink to lilac specimens of gem quality spodumene is named “Kunzite”. The presence of manganese as a chromophore in spodumene specimens is responsible for pink to lilac shades. It is also famous due to its healing and soothing qualities.

Credit : Independent News Pakistan-WealthPk