Surging Demand For Rechargeable Batteries Is Driving Business To South America – by Rosalba O’Brien and Rod Nickel (Huffington Post – March 15, 2016)

Lithium is an essential component of many consumer tech products.

SANTIAGO/TORONTO, March 15 (Reuters) – Far from the soy and cattle that dominate its vast fertile pampas, Argentina harbors another valuable commodity that is rocketing in price and demand and luring newly welcomed foreign investors.

Lithium, the so-called “white petroleum,” drives much of the modern world. It forms a small but essentially irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries, used in consumer devices like mobile phones and electric cars. It also has pharmaceutical and other applications.

Over half of the earth’s identified resources of the mineral are found in South America’s “lithium triangle,” an otherworldly landscape of high-altitude lakes and bright white salt flats that straddles Chile, Argentina and Bolivia.

Until recently, that was not great news for investors. Argentina and Bolivia lacked predictability and a friendly business environment, while Chile kept strict control over lithium output.

But that may be all about to change.

In Chile, a sale of state lithium deposits and a shake-up in the way the country manages its resources has awakened interest from everyone from early-stage mining companies to electric carmakers like Tesla.

In Argentina, already the world’s no. 3 lithium producer after Chile and Australia, investors are hopeful that the new Mauricio Macri government that took over in December will herald a brighter future.

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