Lithium, the rare earth metal, is now one of the most important primal matters of the digital industry. This white metal is an essential component of smartphones and modern batteries. The world is getting more anxious about the environment and nations started adapting sustainable electric energy rather than crude oil or fossil fuel sources. The usage of lithium-powered batteries has become a necessary part of this transformation; from electric vehicles and smartphones, lithium batteries play a significant role in the renewable energy mix. These facts are leading the lithium-producing nations to get more recognition, economic extension, and global political spell which petroleum-producing nations are currently earning. If industry experts believe lithium demand will double by 2024, is this the raise of lithium economies?
Lithium(Li) is an element that gets its name from “lithos” the Greek word for stone because it is present in trace amounts in virtually all rocks. Lithium has a broad range of applications from the manufacturing industry to healthcare. During the digital and electronic vehicle(EV) uprising, lithium’s demand surged swiftly. China, South Korea, Japan, and Europe were the main lithium consumers, and all of them were in search of reserves of Lithium that were not much exploited before. The Salar de Uyuni Salt Flat, a white salt desert in the bottom of an extinct lake between Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, is known for the largest reserve of lithium metal from the beginning of exploration. Bolivia, which has the largest reserve of nearly 21 million tonnes as per the United States Geological Survey (USGS), didn’t utilize its available lithium reserve effectively. Many political, geographical, and technical factors drew them backward from utilizing their reserves. Now their leaders have sworn to make their country “Lithium Capital,” which is yet to be fulfilled. Poorest GDP, which is ranked 119th in the World Bank Index, Bolivia is anticipating a middle-east-like miracle. Bolivia is currently poorly treated by American and European companies due to their political and domestic situation, so they are switching their focus to other superpowers like China, who established themselves as a risk area investor.
Argentina, the country once in history expected to become the US of Latin Americas, has the second-largest reserve by the Salar del Hombre Muerto with about 17 million tonnes deposit; but still, political and financial anxiety stops the investors from spending money in Argentina. Chile on the other hand is different from their other two neighbors; they nearly have a 9 million tonne reserve from the Salar de Atacama salt flat. Currently, Chile is the second-largest producer in the world, their economy is getting enormous gains from lithium and they already became one of the most prosperous Latin American countries by utilizing their resources successfully. Many companies make operations from Chile, like US-based Albermarle and Chile’s SQM; as demand extends, many companies from Europe and the US are getting ready to invest in Chile.
While the superpower race between the US and China intensifies and both are looking forward to becoming the leader of digital industries, with no doubts they are also into the race for lithium. Even though the US has the fourth largest reserve of lithium at almost 6.8 million tonnes, the state’s major consumption comes from imports from Chile and Argentina. However, in the late 2020s several companies, including Tesla, were looking for a domestic supply chain, and in the case of China, the largest consumer was also in search of more lithium resources. In China’s land, they have almost 4.5 million tonnes of reserves, but to balance their demand and supply China imports lithium from Australia’s largest producer of lithium. Australia ranks fifth largest reserve with 6.3 million tonne reserve. Still, in the 2020s Australia was the largest producer in the world. They own the world’s largest lithium projects to extract metal green bushes in western Australia, a joint venture of an American and Chinese company.
When the future bets on new-generation batteries and the position of lithium in which it is unquestionable, lithium producers expect huge money from the business and exports, many experts believe if political stability is secured, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile can become the next Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia someday. When states understand the importance of lithium, many expeditions will take place around the globe to become part of the lithium economy.