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2020-07-22

The global committee on lithium standards will be led by China

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has created a technical committee for standardising global lithium market — from mining to material for lithium-ion batteries. 

The upcoming battery regulations commission will set technical performance, safety and environmental protection for batteries.

CEN/CENELEC (the European standardisation organisations) will develop European standards for batteries and recycling of battery raw materials.

ISO’s Technical Management Board approved the formation of The Technical Committee on Lithium (ISO/TC 333) on 24-25 June.

The secretariat for the new committee is the Standardization Administration of China (SAC), the ISO member body for China.

Commission sources told BEST: “It is essential that the EU fully engages with the ISO Committee on battery lithium, which will be chaired by China, to ensure that the resulting standards are in line with EU interests.

“We will be following this carefully and will continue to encourage full engagement by national standardisation organisations and industry with the ISO process.”

The scope of the SAC proposal included standardisation in the fields of lithium mining, concentration, extraction, separation and conversion to lithium compounds/materials (including lithium-ion battery materials.) 

The work program includes terminology, technical conditions of delivery to overcome transport difficulties, unified testing and analysis methods to improve the general quality of lithium products.

SAC proposed plans to develop three standards for lithium: Basic standards (terms and definitions, packing, marking, transport and storage ); testing and analysis methods standards (chemical analysis of lithium concentrates, metals, compounds and materials/ determination of particle size, specific surface area of lithium concentrates) and product standards. 

Priorities will be given to the items listed in the first and second categories, because the ‘same understanding of definitions and common testing methods are essential for producers and users of lithium globally’. 

Lithium market

The main products are lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide, lithium chloride, lithium metal, etc. Global lithium production was about 280kt lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in 2018. 

Lithium is mainly sourced from either spodumene or brine. Australia is home to the majority of hard rock (spodumene) mines, while brine production is concentrated in South America, mainly in Chile and Argentina.

Lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide are the two lithium compounds employed for battery cathode production, with carbonate making up the bulk of usage

Last month, the UN industry chief Thierry Breton urged EU governments to be more active in setting global standards for lithium in a report by news outlet Reuters.

The report said that Breton was concerned about China seeking to increase its influence in setting standards for a metal crucial to the European bloc’s electric vehicle and energy storage goals as it looks to meet Paris Agreement commitment.

In a letter to industry ministers in the 27 EU countries, Breton wrote: “We need to be vigilant about such processes which can, without the right engagement, unintentionally harm our economic competitiveness and technological leadership.

“It is in our interest to give European companies a competitive advantage by making sure that international standards are in line with ours – whether they are ready or in the making,” Breton said.

There are 10 participating members of ISO from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, including The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There are 14 observing members from the same geographical areas.