By Devjyot Ghoshal and Panu Wongcha-um
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand hopes to start producing lithium from a mine in its southwest in about two years, boosting its ambitions to become a regional electric vehicle (EV) production hub, according to government and company officials involved in the project.
The silvery-white element is a key metal for EV batteries and establishing lithium mines would put Thailand in a unique position compared to other major producers because it is also developing an EV production industry, including $1.44 billion in investment commitments from Chinese carmakers.
Miner Pan Asia Metals is preparing to submit mining licenses in March for the Reung Kiet project in Thailand’s Phang-Nga province that consists of the prospective Reung Kiet and Bang I Tum sites.
Pan Asia’s Chairman and Managing Director Paul Lock told Reuters the company is “optimistic” about starting lithium chemical production from Reung Kiet by early 2026.
Thailand’s Department of Primary Industries and Mines (DPIM) forecasts that the Reung Kiet site could produce about 164,500 metric tons of lithium carbonate, used in lithium iron phosphate batteries for EVs.
The Reung Kiet resource could translate into enough lithium for at least 1 million EV batteries of 50 kilowatt-hour capacity, the DPIM’s Director General Aditad Vasinonta said, adding that mining could begin there in about two years.
The mineral resources at Bang I Tum may be 10%-70% larger than Reung Kiet, according to Pan Asia’s Lock.
“The potential for growth through further exploration is significant. This positions Thailand as an emerging player in the lithium market, aligning well with its ambitions to become a regional hub for electric vehicles,” said Lock.
The potential timeline for mining at Reung Kiet and details of the Bang I Tum resource have not been previously reported.
The total lithium resources in Thailand, and the amount that could be viably mined, is still unclear. Australia, Argentina, Chile and China are among the world’s major lithium suppliers.
Starting lithium production coincides with Thailand’s push into higher EV output. The country, Southeast Asia’s largest car producer and exporter, wants to convert about 30% of its annual vehicle production into EVs by 2030.
So far, 38 battery production projects, including for EVs and other uses, totalling an investment of 23.6 billion baht ($659.40 million), have received support from the Thailand Board of Investment, its secretary general Narit Therdsteerasukdi said.
“Our goal is to push Thailand to become the regional hub for battery production, both for EV and for energy storage,” he said.
The Thai government is also pushing for lithium exploration in new areas, including revising regulations to enable private firms such as Matsa Resources, an Australian miner hunting for lithium in Thailand, to undertake studies on agricultural land, DPIM’s Aditad said.
“We have been working on this, on revising regulation for quite sometime. We plan to finish them by the end of next month,” he said.
Matsa holds two special prospecting licences in Thailand and has over 100 applications in the pipeline, it said in a January announcement.
“They will be only one of a handful of countries that have got the whole supply chain from mining to production within the same country,” said Paul Poli, Matsa’s executive chairman.
The Thai lithium deposits under exploration are found within what are known as lepidolite minerals, which differs from Australian mines that typically produce lithium from spodumene and Chilean projects that extract the metal from brine.
Matsa and Pan Asia said they are in discussions with Chinese firms to process the lepidolite mineral, which can be more expensive than the processing for spodumene and brine. Chinese firms have experience producing lithium from lepidolite in Jiangxi province.
“Our discussions with the Chinese lepidolite mining and processing company are focused on a potential tripartite venture to mine and produce lithium chemicals in Thailand,” Pan Asia’s Lock said.
Establishing a mine and a 10,000-tonnes-per-annum lithium conversion plant in Thailand would require an investment of about $180 million to $250 million, he said.
“This strategy aims to support Thai-based battery manufacturers by ensuring a local supply of essential materials,” he added.
($1 = 35.7900 baht)
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)