A week ago, the shareholders of Canada’s Neo Lithium approved the sale of the TSX Venture Exchange-listed company to China’s Zijin Mining for about $960-million. The announcement received little coverage and appears to have bothered almost no one in the federal government. It should have.
While Neo Lithium is hardly a household name, and the company is relatively small, its purchase should have raised a stink not just in Ottawa but in Washington and among North America’s electric-car makers.
That’s because lithium is an essential component of the batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs), a suddenly burgeoning market, and vast amounts of the global supply of the light, silvery-white metal are going to Chinese companies.
China has been quietly buying lithium producers and deposits around the world for years and is also going after cobalt, another vital component of car batteries, and rare earths, a group of 17 specialty metals that are indispensable for the manufacture of high-tech products such as electric motors, mobile phones, wind turbines, hard disk drives and LEDs.
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