Countries Secure Lithium


". . .investors have woken up to the fact that one single country could end up cornering the in-demand product."

It's a known fact that Bolivia holds the world's largest reserves of lithium. Not only has its government announced that it will invest US$350 million on an industrial plant to produce between 20,000 and 30,000 MT of Li Carbonate beginning 2015, investors have also woken up to the fact that one single country could end up cornering the in-demand product.

The silvery-white metal and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high strength-to-weight alloys used in aircraft, and lithium batteries. Lithium also has important links to nuclear physics.

Since May 2008, the Bolivian government has been developing a pilot plant to obtain around 480MT of Li Carbonate a year. As of October 2009, the progress of the plant showed a delay of at least six months which implies that it will become fully operational only in 2011.

Here we go again. Not only is there a delay in ensuring adequate supplies of the metal, there are physical, political and social challenges playing out in the nation too, which could further delay regular supplies.

As demand for lithium grows, technological development in the next ten years or so is set to follow a similar diversified path as the one observed in 2009, with Li-ion batteries aimed at facilitating the launching of the first mass-produced electric cars in the U.S. and other developed countries, while starting to gradually focus more on Li-air batteries, which are likely to take over the market towards the beginning of the next decade.

Analysts maintain that 2009 has been emblematic in terms of the billionaire financial support provided by the government to the emerging electric car and lithium battery industries in the U.S.

Worldwide, lithium exploration is developing at a fever pitch.

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