Lithium is used in drugs to help middle-aged ladies (and others) deal with depression. One person I know has benefited greatly from a regime of lithium pills, although sometimes the mood-swings get to be disconcerting.
Lithium could also be used in batteries for electric cars. Where will all the lithium come from? One report notes:
The United States Geological Survey says 5.4 million tons of lithium could potentially be extracted in Bolivia, compared with 3 million in Chile, 1.1 million in China and just 410,000 in the United States. Independent geologists estimate that Bolivia might have even more lithium at Uyuni and its other salt deserts, though high altitudes and the quality of the reserves could make access to the mineral difficult.
Political factors too could make access difficult. To paraphrase the report again:
The new Constitution that Mr. Morales managed to get handily passed by voters last month [included a] provision giving Indians control over the natural resources in their territory, strengthening their ability to win concessions from the authorities and private companies, or even block mining projects.
“The previous imperialist model of exploitation of our natural resources will never be repeated in Bolivia,” said Saúl Villegas, head of a division in Comibol that oversees lithium extraction. “Maybe there could be the possibility of foreigners accepted as minority partners, or better yet, as our clients.”
Where this leaves the buy-America provisions of the many bail-out plans for the automakers, I do not know. Certainly an all-electric auto industry will need lithium.
Ailing automakers in the United States are pinning their hopes on lithium. One of them is General Motors, which next year plans to roll out its Volt, a car using a lithium-ion battery along with a gas engine. Nissan, Ford and BMW, among other carmakers, have similar projects.
From what little I can find on the web, there is a lithium mine in North Carolina. And a link to a report on work to open a new lithium mine in Nevada, namely the King’s Valley Hectorite Clay property to be developed by Western Lithium Canada Corporation. “Here come those pesky Canadian miners intent on robbing the USA of its mineral reserves as a result of low royalty regimes.”
Of course James Bond may be able to help. At this link is a fun blog review of shooting Quantum of Solace in Bolivia. Maybe Bond can slip a few lithium happy-pills to Mr. Morales, a seeming most morose & somber fellow.
Maybe Mr. Morales will get as good at helping mining as the Peruvian government is at moving towns to facilitate mining lesser minerals.
Personally I cannot get too excited yet about Bolivian control of lithium resources. Too many conventional cars still to be sold before we get to panic. And we seem to do pretty well buying oil from less-than-nice people. No doubt Mr. Morales will be persuadable when the price (need) is right.
And as far as I can work out, there is a lot of lithium out there. It just depends on what you are prepared to pay to get it. Why you could probably get it from sea water or oil sands tailings if the price goes high enough.