Ukraine has millions of tons of lithium. Why is it not being mined?

Lithium is sometimes called “white gold” because it has become critical for several economic sectors. One of its leading suppliers in the world is China, and it is needed, among other things, for the manufacture of lithium batteries, which in turn are part of a vast number of devices, from laptops to electric cars: Tesla had to raise prices for its cars due to the rise in lithium prices. And according to the WSJ, demand for electric cars is also driving up lithium prices.

Ukraine has several explored deposits of this metal ore, and its volumes can reach millions of tons, but it has yet to be mined. There are various reasons, from technical difficulties to fighting on the front line.

The AIN.Capital editors asked Yevhen Naumenko, a researcher at the geological department of the National Museum of Natural History of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, why Ukraine has so far not been mining lithium. Here is his opinion:

Lithium is a popular and sought-after metal, and we have four explored deposits in Ukraine: Polokhivske, Dobra, Shevchenkivske, and Kruta Balka. However, each of them has particular challenges.


Let’s start with the largest one, Polokhivske, in the Kirovohrad region. The deposit itself is pretty extensive, with three ore bodies. A reasonably high concentration of lithium characterizes the deposit area. But it has a problem, as many others: Lithium ores lie at a considerable depth. That is, a massive amount of sedimentary rocks 60-100 m thick need to be removed. This deposit has been explored to a depth of 500 m, so it makes no sense to open the pit. We need to build a mine. But it will be a rather large investment.

There is also another thing. Rumors say there are many lawsuits related to this field, and no one can do anything until they are over.

One more thing is that more than building mines may be needed to use the deposit effectively. It may be necessary to build a mining and processing plant. After all, lithium is usually extracted from several types of minerals in the world: lithium mica — lepidolite and zinnwaldite, or lithium pyroxene — spodumene, the most abundant ores in the world. Petalite ores, lepidolite-spodumene ores, etc. are the least common. The composition of ores affects both the processing method and the final product: spodumene concentrate or petalite concentrate.

The petalite concentrate can be produced from the ore of the deposit above and will require the construction of a mining and processing plant. This concentrate can derivate either lithium oxide or lithium carbonate, the most commonly used lithium source globally. But this will make the process even more expensive, as most of the world’s smelters produce spodumene concentrate.

But we should also keep in mind that, according to long-standing estimates, the ore reserves of this deposit are millions of tons. Recently, foreigners commissioned additional exploration, but I don’t know the results. I have held samples of ore from it and know there is much of it.


It is also a field in the Kirovohrad region, near Polokhivske. The fun thing about this source is that its lithium ores are mixed with ores of other elements: tantalum, niobium, rubidium, cesium, beryllium, tungsten, and tin. Small amounts of gold ore are also here. Lithium occurs in the form of petalite and spodumene ores.

This diversity of essential elements is outstanding. But at the same time, it makes production very difficult and expensive. Another feature is that, unlike the Polokhivske deposit, the ore bodies here are located in a specific area, with several ore occurrences (6-7). In addition, there is an overburden of 80-100 m (i.e., surface sedimentary rocks that do not contain lithium ore and are to be removed to get to lithium — ed.). Therefore, we will have to establish separate small mines.


This field is in the northwest part of the Donetsk region, within the occupied territory, where active fighting occurs, and the front line is close. So, this would be the first difficulty: once these territories are liberated, there will be access to the source. In addition, this field has quite a lot of water, so if we build a mine, we will have to pump out a lot of water. But it can also produce feldspar and vein quartz, raw materials for the glass-blowing or porcelain and faience industries.

Kruta Balka

This is a relatively small but complex deposit located in the south of the Zaporizhzhia region. Extracting tantalum, niobium, lithium, rubidium, cesium, feldspar, and quartz is possible. Theoretically, zirconium and tin can also be mined here. There may be difficulties because it looks like a small quarry on the bank of the Berda River, and there is a summer cottage area above — land under some of these houses may be part of the land of this deposit.


Developing the Polokhivske deposit and building a mining and processing plant there makes sense. All the difficulties will pay off if the data about it is correct. I estimate the construction of a mine there at $200 million and another $300 million for the plant and infrastructure.