LITHIUM, BATTERIES, ELECTRIC CARS AND BOLIVIAN RESERVES

LITHIUM

Lithium is used in batteries, cars, laptop computers, mobile phones, ceramics and is a component in drugs to treat manic depression. is a key element in batteries used in electronic products such a cell phones and laptop computers. It is increasingly becoming a vital resource as lithium ion batteries expand from electronics into electric vehicles. Some say lithium will one day rival petroleum in value.

“Lithium is the lightest metal, about 1/2 the weight of water. However, pure lithium ignites on contact with water. Juan Forero wrote in the Washington Post: “It's the lightest of all metals, skitters wildly on water and can unexpectedly explode. To mine it commercially requires an elaborate process involving drilling, evaporation tanks and chemical processing.” But if million electric cars become as popular as they are expected to be “a once-obscure metal crucial for the batteries in those cars, lithium, will probably be mined by the tens of thousands of tons. [Source: Juan Forero, Washington Post, December 17, 2010]

“Highly reactive, lithium does not occur freely in nature. Evaporation tanks are then used to remove the brine, leaving behind lithium that is then tested in a lab to determine its mixture with other elements. One cannot really see the finished product. Highly reactive, lithium does not occur freely in nature. "We cannot show off lithium as if it were some metal ingot," Dias, the geologist and Exar manager, said in the company's lab. "We only have it in a molecular state, or diluted in the brine." [Ibid]

World Production, By Country (Metric tons, 2006): 1) Australia 222,101; 2) Australia 175,000; 3) Chile 43,600; 4) Zimbabwe 30,000; 5) Zimbabwe 30,000; 6) Portugal 28,497; 7) Canada 22,500; 8) Canada 22,500; 9) Portugal 16,000; 10) China 15,000; 11) China 15,000; 12) Brazil 12,100; 13) Brazil 8,950; 14) Russian Federation 2,200 [Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS) Minerals Resources Program]

Demand for Lithium

The demand for lithium increased dramatically during the Cold War with the production of nuclear fusion weapons. Both lithium-6 and lithium-7 produce tritium when irradiated by neutrons, and are thus useful for the production of tritium by itself, as well as a form of solid fusion fuel used inside hydrogen bombs in the form of lithium deuteride. The United States became the prime producer of lithium in the period between the late 1950s and the mid 1980s. At the end the stockpile of lithium was roughly 42,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide. Lithium was also used to decrease the melting temperature of glass and to improve the melting behavior of aluminium oxide. These two uses dominated the market until the middle of the 1990s. After the end of the nuclear arms race the demand for lithium decreased and the sale of Department of Energy stockpiles on the open market further reduced prices. [Source: Wikipedia]

Total world lithium demand in 2010 was around 24,500 tons. Demand is forecast to increase over the next ten years at a rate of about 5,000 tons per year. The largest current lithium industry users (about 50 percent ) are ceramics and alloys. As for lithium used batteries: Lithium accounted for about 15 percent of demand for all batteries in 2011. By 2020 , lithium batteries will increase to roughly 40 percent of the total demand. Electric vehicle battery packs will be a large part of the demand growth in the next 10 years. Prices and production have risen since as lithium-ion batteries have become popular. [Source: EVRolls.com]

“Demand is expected to shoot way up when electric cars become widely used. The batteries used to power an electric cars are more than 100 times bigger than the ones used in laptop commuters. Some analysts have estimated there is not enough lithium in the world to meet the demand of the car industry goes electric. William Tahil, research director of Meridian International Research, estimated there are 4 million tons of lithium reserves than can be extracted economically. [Ibid]

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries---rechargeable lithium batteries used in electronics and electric cars---are powerful and relatively lightweight. They carry a longer-lasting charge than the lead acid variety long used in vehicles. Lithium ion batteries are more expensive than NiCd batteries but operate over a wider temperature range with higher energy densities, while being smaller and lighter. They are fragile and so need a protective circuit to limit peak voltages. Pure lithium is very reactive. It reacts vigorously with water to form lithium hydroxide and hydrogen gas. Thus, a non-aqueous electrolyte is typically used, and a sealed container rigidly excludes water from the battery pack. [Source: EVRolls.com. Wikipedia]

Lithium batteries were first commercially used in the early 1990s. Between 2003 and 2007 industrial demand for lithium doubled. Consumption in 2008 was round 80,000 tons. Demand is expected to surge by 25 percent a year in coming years. According to Wikipedia: “A lithium-ion battery (sometimes Li-ion battery or LIB) is a family of rechargeable battery types in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during discharge, and back when charging. Li-Ion batteries use an intercalated lithium compound as the electrode material, compared to the metallic lithium used in the non-rechargeable lithium battery. [Ibid]

“Lithium-ion batteries are common in consumer electronics. They are one of the most popular types of rechargeable battery for portable electronics, with one of the best energy densities, no memory effect, and only a slow loss of charge when not in use. Beyond consumer electronics, LIBs are also growing in popularity for military, electric vehicle, and aerospace applications. Research is yielding a stream of improvements to traditional LIB technology, focusing on energy density, durability, cost, and intrinsic safety. Depending on materials choices, the voltage, capacity, life, and safety of a lithium-ion battery can change dramatically. Recently, novel architectures using nanotechnology have been employed to improve performance. [Ibid]

“Chemistry, performance, cost, and safety characteristics vary across LIB types. Handheld electronics mostly use LIBs based on lithium cobalt oxide (LCO), which offers high energy density, but have well-known safety concerns, especially when damaged. Lithium iron phosphate (LFP), lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) offer lower energy density, but longer lives and inherent safety. These chemistries are being widely used for electric tools, medical equipment and other roles. NMC in particular is a leading contender for automotive applications. Lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA) and lithium titanate (LTO) are specialty designs aimed at particular niche roles. [Ibid]

“During discharge, lithium ions Li+ carry the current from the negative to the positive electrode, through the non-aqueous electrolyte and separator diaphragm. During charging, an external electrical power source (the charging circuit) applies an over-voltage (a higher voltage but of the same polarity) than that produced by the battery, forcing the current to pass in the reverse direction. The lithium ions then migrate from the positive to the negative electrode, where they become embedded in the porous electrode material in a process known as intercalation. [Ibid]

“The three primary functional components of a lithium-ion battery are the negative electrode, positive electrode, and the electrolyte. The negative electrode of a conventional lithium-ion cell is made from carbon. The positive electrode is a metal oxide, and the electrolyte is a lithium salt in an organic solvent. The electrochemical roles of the electrodes change between anode and cathode, depending on the direction of current flow through the cell. [Ibid]

“The most commercially popular negative electrode material is graphite. The positive electrode is generally one of three materials: a layered oxide (such as lithium cobalt oxide), a polyanion (such as lithium iron phosphate), or a spinel (such as lithium manganese oxide). The electrolyte is typically a mixture of organic carbonates such as ethylene carbonate or diethyl carbonate containing complexes of lithium ions. These non-aqueous electrolytes generally use non-coordinating anion salts such as lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6), lithium hexafluoroarsenate monohydrate (LiAsF6), lithium perchlorate (LiClO4), lithium tetrafluoroborate (LiBF4), and lithium triflate (LiCF3SO3). [Ibid]

Flaming Laptops with Lithium Batteries

In August 2006, Dell recalled 4.1 million batteries used in the laptop computers because of risks they could overheat and cause a fire. It was the largest recalls ever in the electronics industry. Ten days later Apple recalled 1.8 million batteries used in Mac laptops. Both recalls involved lithium-ion batteries made by a Sony subsidiary that introduced small metal particles in the manufacturing process that could can cause computers to short circuit or catch fire.

“The recall ended up affecting almost every major maker of laptop computers, which were all using Sony batteries. In all 9.6 Sony million batteries, most of them in 7.74 million laptop computers made by Dell, Apple, Lenovo, IBM, Toshiba Hitachi, Fujitsu and Sharp, were recalled. Toshiba recalled 830,000 computers and was contemplating suing Sony over decline in sales and impairment to its brand image. Hewlett Packard and Gateway computers used the Sony batteries but were not involved in the recall because the batteries were configured in such a way there was no risk of overheating.

“The problem first surfaced when someone video-taped a computer catching on fire at conference in Osaka in the spring. Sony was aware of the problem several months before that but didn’t act. The video of the fire was widely circulated on the Internet. Altogether there were 10 reports of computers with Sony batteries overheating. The recall cost Sony around $500 million and badly damaged its reputation.

Lithium-Ion Car Batteries

In the future it is expected that lithium batteries will power the majority of electric vehicles. For the lithium industry to really take off the hope is that lithium will become cheap enough to help spur a mass market for electric cars or hybrid gas-electric hyprids. The Obama administration, trying to reduce America's reliance on foreign oil, has provided $2.4 billion in grants to car companies, battery makers and suppliers.

“One of the most important parameters for any transportation fuel is energy density. Gasoline and diesel fuel pack a lot of energy into a relatively small volume, as you can see on the charts below. Lithium-ion batteries by comparison pack a lot less energy into the same space. This is why electric cars have lower ranges compared to gas powered cars. Here is an energy/unit weight example comparison: The 2012 Nissan Leaf has a 200 Kg (440 lbs) lithium-ion battery pack. Compare lithium-ion energy to the energy density of gasoline at 13.11 kWh/Kg. 200Kg of gas would equal a whopping 2622 kWh! That's over 100 times as much energy! Another important fact is that Li-Ion batteries are temperature sensitive. They lose energy storage in cold and hot temps. They work best in temperature ranges from about 14 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit or -10 to 30 degrees Celsius. The A123 company claims to have a new Li-Ion battery that functions well from -30 to 45 degrees Celsius. [Source: EVRolls.com]

“The lithium-ion car battery is under rapid development and improvement. Lithium batteries go by several names based on their chemistries. Li-Ion and LiFePo4 are a few of the more common configurations these days. The Envia company for instance promises a 400 Watt-Hour battery weighing just 1.0 kg. One drawback of Li-Ion batteries is that they tend to be a bit unstable. Remember those laptop fires? Those were Li-Ion laptop batteries burning. Those are also the same types of batteries found in the Tesla Roadster. Tesla and other EV manufacturers have designed cooling systems and redundancy into the power systems to prevent lithium related flareups. [Ibid]

“Remember, however, that even the Tesla Roadster with 900 lbs of fully charged Li-Ion battery pack carries the actual energy of about 2 gallons of good old gasoline weighing 12.5 lbs. The Tesla's impressive acceleration is due to the inherent torque characteristics of its rather large electric motor and light weight. Its range is due to its efficiency, light weight, great design, and rather low drag. [Ibid]

“There is a huge amount of research going on to improve Li-Ion batteries even more such as efforts to extend range and reduce charging time among other things. The Li-Ni battery represents a possible improvement. The US Federal Government is funding 9 Li-Ion battery plants that are expected to begin producing EV battery packs by 2011. Government funds have helped finance 26 out of 30 new US battery and component plants expected to supply up to 20 percent of the worlds EV batteries by 2013. [Ibid]

“Juan Forero wrote in the Washington Post: “A123 Systems, a battery technology company with roots at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, is working to create lithium-ion batteries that would give electric cars a greater range - say, 200 to 300 miles - between recharging. A typical battery uses only a few pounds of lithium, but other components make such batteries expensive - by some estimates, well over $10,000 each - and bulky. [Source: Juan Forero, Washington Post, December 17, 2010]

“Companies are working hard to develop lithium batteries with more juice."We need to demonstrate that we can reduce the cost of this over the next four or five years to make the sale of these things take off without government stimulus," said David Vieau, chief executive of A123, which received a $249 million federal grant to build factories in Michigan. "It is a critical component for getting the volume up and helping drive the cost out while we make these batteries more efficient.” [Ibid]

Electric Cars

Electric cars introduced in the 2010s have improved lithium batteries and cost below $25,000. They will be able to travel about 200 kilometers per charge. Prius currently use heavy nickel-hydrogen batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more efficient. Electric cars using batteries based on new materials capable of traveling 500 kilometers per charge---or about the same distance as gasoline-powered cars---are expected to appear on the 2020s. By 2030 they want to mass produce electric cars with batteries that cost 1/40th the cost of current versions. Because the research and development costs are so high, many companies are collaborating with their rivals to reduce costs. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]

“Because of their limited range electric cars are widely seen as vehicles limited to daily commutes or for running errands and doing shopping. For long trips hybrids are more practical. Aomori Prefecture is exploring the use of a system that hooks into a car’s navigation system that shows drivers which rechargers are being used and which are available. [Ibid]

“The biggest obstacle for electric cars is the high cost of lithium-ion batteries and the challenge of creating street-based facilities to charge batteries. There are handful of recharging stations for electric vehicles in Japan, including two in Tokyo. Tokyo Electronic is developing a fast charger able to charge a battery to 80 percent of its capacity in 15 to 30 minutes. It hopes to introduce the chargers to shopping malls and other facilities. [Ibid]

“Nissan has said that by 2020, one in 10 cars worldwide may use lithium batteries. And Pike Research, a consulting firm in Boulder, Colo., said the market for lithium-ion batteries could expand to $8 billion in 2015 from less than $900 million in 2010. "Virtually every major car company around the globe has some sort of a hybrid electric vehicle program going," Vieau said. [Ibid]

“Electric cars and hybrids are not new. Ferdinand Porsche's hybrid was presented at a Paris exhibition in 1900. In the United States, there were 50,000 electric cars plying the roads in 1918. But big oil discoveries and Henry Ford's introduction of the Model T quickly established the dominance of the internal-combustion engine. [Ibid]

“The Economist reported in October 2010: “The first mass-market electric cars are now arriving in showrooms in America, Europe and Japan. They come in three flavours. Pure electric vehicles like Nissan’s Leaf can be driven for 150km or so before they need to be recharged for six to eight hours. Range-extenders like GM’s Volt (the Ampera in Europe) are powered by an electric motor that can be recharged either from the mains or by an on-board internal-combustion engine. Then there are familiar hybrids like the Toyota Prius, now being adapted to take a charging cord and with a longer electric-only range. [Source: The Economist, October 7, 2010]

“In electric vehicles (EVs) the battery generally accounts for about half the vehicle’s cost. The performance of the battery generally decides the performance of the vehicle. Most of the production costs for EVs derive from battery cells being mounted within the vehicles. These costs can be cut significantly through large scale production. [Ibid]

“Electric charges for an electric car are about one third of the price per kilometer as gasoline for a gas-powered cars. According to Nissan projections if their electric car is driven 1,000 kilometers a month it would pay for itself over six years with electricity charges adding up to ¥86,000 as opposed to ¥580,000 that would spent on gasoline for a gas-powered car. The Nissan Leaf EV can reach speeds of 140 kph and travel 160 kilometers on a single charge. [Ibid]

“Carlos Ghosn, head of Renault-Nissan, believes that by 2020 one in ten new cars in Europe will be electric, while hybrids, such as the Prius, will have a similar share of the market. Government subsidies are key to getting potential buyers into the show rooms. American buyers, for example, can get up to $7,500 towards the purchase of an electric car. Mr Ghosn told The Economist he reckons incentives will be needed for another four years or so. He thinks electric cars will compete without subsidies against conventional cars only when production reaches about 500,000 per model. [The Economist, Op. Cit]

Chinese Electric Car Batteries

A decade ago, Japan dominated the world of lithium-ion batteries but in 1998 the Chinese government launched a push to catch up Developing powerful but safe batteries has been a key challenge for Chinese automakers. Batteries in Chinese cars have exploded more than 10 times during development, the business magazine Caijing reported in April 2011. [Source: AP, April 20, 2011]

“Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, “The race to make the first successful electric car may hinge on what engineers call “the pack”---the intricate bundle of batteries that is the most temperamental equipment on board. If the pack is too big, the car will be too pricey; if the pack is too small, or of poor design, it will drive like a golf cart. “Batteries are a lot like people,” Phil Gow, Coda’s chief battery engineer, told me when I visited the Tianjin factory, a ninety-minute drive from Beijing. “They want to have a certain temperature range. They’re finicky.” At one of Lishen’s production lines, similar to the car-battery line that will be fully operational next year. Workers in blue uniforms and blue hairnets were moving in swift precision around long temperature-controlled assembly lines, sealed off from dust and contamination by glass walls. [Ibid]

“The workers were making laptop batteries---pinkie-size cylinders, to be lined up and encased in the familiar plastic brick. The system is similar for batteries tiny enough for an iPod or big enough for a car. Conveyor belts carried long, wafer-thin strips of metal into printing-press-like rollers, which coated them with electrode-active material. Another machine sandwiched the strips between razor-thin layers of plastic, and wound the whole stack together into a tight “jelly roll,” a cylinder that looked, for the first time, like a battery. (Square cell-phone batteries are just jelly rolls squashed.)

“A slogan on the wall declared “Variation Is the Biggest Enemy of Quality.” Gow nodded at it gravely. A bundle of batteries is only as good as its weakest cell; if a coating is five-millionths of a meter too thin or too thick, a car could be a lemon. The new plant will have up to three thousand workers on ten-hour shifts, twenty hours a day. “When you get down to it, you can have ten people working in China for the cost of one person in the U.S.,” Mark Atkeson, the head of Coda’s China operations, said. [Ibid]

“It was easy to see China’s edge in the operation. Upstairs, Gow and Atkeson showed me America’s edge: their prototype of the pack. For two years, Coda’s engineers in California and their collaborators around the world have worked on making it as light and powerful as possible---a life of “optimizing millimeters,” as Gow put it. The result was a long, shallow aluminum case, measured to fit between the axles and jam-packed with seven hundred and twenty-eight rectangular cells, topped with a fibreglass case. It carried its own air-conditioning system, to prevent batteries from getting too cold or too hot. Czinger said only his American engineers had the garage-innovation culture to spend “eighteen hours a day for two years to develop a new technology.” But only in China had he discovered “the will to spend on infrastructure, and to do it at high speed.” The result, he said, was a “state-of-the-art battery facility that was, two years ago, an empty field!”

Lithium Mining

Lithium is difficult to extract and found mostly in high latitude salt lakes in the Andes in Chile and Bolivia. About 1.500 kilograms of ore, rock, soil and sand needs to be excavated to produce one kilogram of lithium. [Source: Japanese Environmental Ministry]

Lithium is separated from other elements in igneous minerals. Lithium salts are extracted from the water of mineral springs, brine pools and brine deposits. The metal is produced electrolytically from a mixture of fused lithium chloride and potassium chloride. In 1998 lithium sold for about $95 a kilogram. [Ibid]

“In the mid-1990s, several companies started to extract lithium from brine which proved to be a less expensive method than underground or even open pit mining. With the surge of lithium demand in batteries in to 2000s, new companies have expanded brine extraction efforts to meet the rising demand. [Ibid]

Lithium Reserves

Electric vehicles today depend on lithium mining to provide a constant supply of needed battery pack material. The current leading producer of lithium is Chile. Chile has reserves of around 3 million tons. Argentina is another leading lithium producer. Both Chile and Argentina recover the lithium from brine pools. For perspective: One ton of pure lithium is estimated to be roughly enough to produce around 400 million Chevy Volt (16kWh) or 250 million Nissan Leaf (24 kWh) battery packs. [Source: EVRolls.com. Wikipedia]

“Total 2010 production of marketable lithium (lithium combined with other materails to keep it stable) was estimated at 120,000 tonnes. Chile's SQM produced about 32,600 tons. Australia's Talison produces 28,200 tonnes. Rockwood Holdings' Chemetall produces 22,500 tons. US-based FMC at 16,600 tons.

“The United States has been producing lithium for some time. The western US has the conditions of high altitude, plate proximate margin boundary, and volcanoes. American Lithium Minerals has embarked on a $4.5 million exploration program near the Borate hills of Southern California/Nevada. Western Lithium Corporation is exploring its Kings Valley, Nevada, prospect. The prospect is estimated to contain some 48.1 million tons grading 0.27 percent lithium, or 650,000 tons of LCE (lithiu, carbonate equivalent). The Silver Peak, Nevada, mining district dates back 150 years and is the only current operating lithium mining facility in the US. A wealth of minerals from gold to silver have been mined in the district. The Silver Peak operation is estimated to have produced 234,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate at a rate of approximately 5,700 tonnes per year. In the United States lithium is mstly recovered from brine pools.

“In Canada a site in Quebec has estimated reserves of nearly 46 million tons at 1.19 percent Li2O, and inferred resources of some 57 million tons at 1.18 percent Li2O. Production is estimated to begin in 2013 at 20,000 tons per year. Cost to start production is around $200 million US. An interesting reserve base has appeared in war torn Afghanistan. It happens that there is a large site high in the mountains near a plate margin surrounded by volcanoes - prime conditions for lithium formation. The size of the prospect has not been published, but is reported to be quite large.

“There has been much discussion recently regarding the lithium demand to be imposed by electric vehicle batteries. The thrust of the discussions seem to focus on the idea that lithium is the new crude oil in terms of supply. However, as it turns out, supply at this time is actually growing faster (several thousand tons per year) than demand. By 2020, there will likely be excess lithium production of ten thousand or so tons per year.

Lithium in Bolivian, Chilean and Argentine Andes

South American countries account for about 50 percent of the global lithium production.The largest deposits of lithium are in the high-altitude deserts of southwest Bolivia in the high Andes, where vast salt flats are set among dry mountains. "These are the most notable reserves at the moment," Horacio Dias, a geologist who manages operations here for Exar, an Argentine affiliate of Canada's Lithium Americas Corp., told the Washington Post. "We think there is enough here to last many years." [Source: Juan Forero, Washington Post, December 17, 2010]

The largest single lithium deposit is in the Salar de Uyuni, an area of salt lakes in southwest Bolivia. The deposit covers 10,582 sqaure kilometers, or 4,086 square miles and contains at least 5.4 million tons of lithium,. This deposit is around 50 to 70 percent of the world total. The area is not now in mining due to governmental restriction. Salar de Atacama salt lake in Chile is another important source.

“Production at Salar de Uyuni is difficult due to access issues and the need for production expertise, necessary for any lithium enterprise. addition, there are social and development problems. It will cost around $500 million to develop roads into the area. The lithium is also mixed with magnesium, which makes extraction and production more problematic, expensive, dirty and damaging to the environment. Locals understandably want to keep control of production. All these problems are being worked out. Pilot plants are now paving the way to producing from 30 to 50 percent of known world lithium ores. Reserves are estimated at up to 5,400,000 tons.

“Juan Forero wrote in the Washington Post: “Much of the world has had its eyes on Bolivia, which President Evo Morales claims has infinitely more of the metal than all other lithium-producing countries combined. His socialist government is trying to lure mining companies, but Bolivia's terms call for those investors to also fund a Bolivian-based lithium-ion battery industry. [Source: Juan Forero, Washington Post, December 17, 2010]

“While Japanese and South Korean companies have expressed interest, none is producing lithium in Bolivia.” In October 2010, Morales held a press conference to lament that firms "want to invest just to buy lithium." "And why do they want to buy only lithium carbonate from us?" Morales asked. "So the lithium battery industry remains outside Bolivia." A few weeks earlier he had stepped back from his har-line sociaists tabce to be wined and dined at South Korea’s Blue House. [Ibid]

“Because of problems in Bolivia major lithium producers have backed away and instead are concentrating on Chile and Argentina, which together account for more than half of the world's lithium production. Among the big players are New Jersey-based Rockwood Holdings and the Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile, both of which mine salt flats in Chile. In Argentina, the companies include FMC of Charlotte, which relocated here from Bolivia, and Orocobre of Australia, which has agreed to provide lithium from Argentina for a major supplier to Toyota. [Ibid]

“Exar, the Argentine affiliate of Lithium Americas, has been punching exploration holes in the Cauchari-Olaroz salt flats, a moonscape-like plateau in northern Argentina not far from the Bolivian border. But Exar and its shareholders, among them Mitsubishi, think the salt beds here may contain up to 8 million tons of lithium. That would give the company control over the world's third-largest deposit. [Ibid]

Lithium, China, South Korea and Japan

Japan imports 15,000 tons of lithium annually, with about 85 percent coming from South American countries. Already Japan and China are staking claims in Bolivia to make sure they have enough to meet their needs. Both countries are looking for promising mining sites, making deals with mining companies and getting on the good side of the Bolivian government by offering technology that will help develop the sites. Sumitomo and JOGMEC are working with the Bolivian government to develop lithium resources there. [Spurce: Yomiuri Shimbun]

“The acquisition of a 40 percent stake in the development of a lithium deposit in Nevada by Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), announced in June 2010, was regarded as a major coup for Japan. The joint venture aims to produce 10,000 tons of lithium a year, 10 percent of the world’s total. [Ibid]

“Japan is trying hard to get a major stake in the salt lakes of Uyuni in southwest Bolivia, which are estimated to contain 5.4 million tons of lithium, half of the world’s reserves. Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, and JOGMEC have formed to partnership to battle against Chinese and South Korean rivals to obtain a major stake in developing deposits there. [Ibid]

“In February 2010, Japan sent a delegation of 70 officials to Bolivia to work out a deal. Bolivia has insisted that it wants to develop the deposits independently but already there are reports that a South Korean firm is conducting feasability studies with Bolivian government, raising fears among the Japanese that maybe they have been left behind. [Ibid]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, U.S. Department of Energy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated August 2012

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