Posted by: tristar3research | February 25, 2009

Bolivia: The Saudi Arabia of Lithium

A number of recent stories have pointed out that, while independence from foreign oil is highly desirable, even a major shift to hybrid vehicles still leaves Americans dependent on important commodities from unstable or hostile countries. Consider the case of lithium:

Bolivia holds as much as half of the world’s lithium reserves, a key component in making hybrid or electric cars, the New York Times reported, citing Oji Baba, an executive with Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp.’s base metals unit.

Salar Uyuni, Bolivia - rich in lithium

Salar Uyuni, Bolivia - rich in lithium

The country, presided over by the government of President Evo Morales, has a growing nationalist sentiment about the reserves, the newspaper said. Bolivia has nationalized its oil and natural gas industries and the government is talking of controlling the lithium stores.  Bolivia plans to spend $150 million to $200 million to develop lithium reserves at the country´s Uyuni salt flats, according to President Evo Morales. Several indigenous groups, such as those on the edge of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat and the location of much of the minerial, suggest the country could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” the newspaper said.

Reviewing the uses reveals economic security risks for high-performance applications in autos, telecoms, aerospace, optics, space and materials science.

Wiki explains some lithium uses: Because of its specific heat capacity, the highest of all solids, lithium is often used in heat transfer applications. It is an important ingredient in anode materials, used in Lithium-ion batterieselectrochemical potential, light weight, and high current density. Large quantities of lithium are also used in the manufacture of organolithium reagents, especially n-butyllithium which has many uses in fine chemical and polymer synthesis. because of its high

    Of course, GM doesn’t expect to make any profit on its much hyped hybrid vehicle, the Volt, “until the price of the batteries comes down…

    Time Magazine laments: President Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state, prides himself on state control over natural resources he nationalized the country’s (massive natural gas reserves in 2006). If the past is any indication, electric carmakers should look to the Andes with sober eyes. “This is a unique opportunity for us,” says Bolivian Mining Minister Luis Alberto Echazu. “The days of U.S. car companies buying cheap raw materials to sell expensive cars are over.”

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