Mine your business: Lithium in Latin America
Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. The country's salt flats contain 9 million tons of lithium. Photo: Dimitry B./Flickr

Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. The country's salt flats contain 9 million tons of lithium. Photo: Dimitry B./Flickr

30th November 2017

Jerry Haar
You’ve seen it on TV—a smoking suitcase in an airport check-in line. A spontaneous fire in a handbag in a supermarket shopping cart. Is the culprit: ISIS? Al-Qaeda? No, lithium. The spontaneous combustion of lithium has garnered a good deal of attention in recently.
A soft, silvery-white alkali metal, lithium has a number of industrial applications including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lubricants, flux additives for metal processing, lithium batteries, and lithium-ion batteries.
Given the fact that lithium plays such a prominent role in the energy field–powering mobile phones, electric cars and energy grids–we can expect greater attention to be paid to this metal in the realms of mining, business development, and regulatory policy, especially in Latin America. Why Latin America? Because the region holds 54 percent of the world’s lithium resources in what is known as the “lithium triangle”–Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. (Some estimates put these countries’ lithium reserves at 80 percent of the world’s supply.)
Each of these ABC nations has unique features that abet and impede the exploration and commercialization of lithium.
In the case of Chile, it is considered by many to be the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium”. Its Atacama salt flat possesses the biggest and highest quality proven reserves, and its lithium deposits are close to ports. Chilean chemical company SQM, the world’s biggest producer of …

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