Lithium use set to soar

Lithium plays a growing role in the global economy, but new mining concessions can be hard to find.

Lithium plays a growing role in the global economy: it's a crucial component in the batteries of our phones, gadgets and electric cars. Argentina, Bolivia and Chile hold about 70% of the world's lithium reserves, "but new mining concessions can be hard to find", says Alexandre Peyrille on AFP.com. Chile is not granting any new concessions and Bolivia has suspended mining after opposition from local residents. This leaves Argentina where a lithium rush is in full swing to lead the way.

The country "is betting heavily" on lithium, the Argentine mining secretary Jorge Mayoral tells Bernetti.Salt flats, or "salares", at the foot of the Andes mountains, hold vast deposits of lithium and resources "may surpass 128 million tonnes of lithium carbonate". American, South Korean and Japanese companies are already mining Argentina's deposits. Carmakers, including Toyota and Mitsubishi, have already moved into lithium production.

Most demand for lithium carbonate still comes from companies producing ceramics and glass. However, demand will rise significantly when electric vehicles become mainstream, requiring lithium for their batteries, Citigroup analyst Matthew Schembri tells The Sydney Morning Herald.He expects sevenfold growth in demand by 2020 and forecasts that lithium prices are likely to rise by 20% before a wave of new production comes to market in the next two years.

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