Lithium: the ‘new oil’

China is the world's leading producer of consumer electronic appliances, including laptop computers, mobile phones and cameras. China also boasts the world's largest market for automobiles, including electric cars. So, how will these new appliances, large and small, be powered? In recent years, lithium has emerged as the "new oil," and today lithium is playing a central role in the switch to battery-powered alternatives to fossil fuels.

Lithium is the lightest metal and the least dense solid. It is typically extracted from beneath salt flats. Although China has a domestic reserve of lithium in its western Qinghai province and Tibet region, the soaring demand for consumer electronics, hybrid vehicles and electric cars has forced China to look beyond its borders for additional supplies. As a result, Chinese investors have cast their eyes towards Latin American countries where over 70% of the world's salt lake lithium deposits are found.

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