Is China’s lithium quest fuelled by business or politics, and how far will it go to secure ‘white gold’? – by Ji Siqi (South China Morning Post – February 22, 2022)

South America’s Lithium Triangle contains more than half of the world’s reserves of the critical metal that is used in batteries, and China is looking to carve out a bigger piece of the pie

Just days after Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez signed his country up for China’s Belt and Road Initiative during a high-profile trip to Beijing this month, the spot price of lithium metal in the Chinese market reached 2 million yuan (US$315,000) per tonne for the first time – more than four times what it cost a year ago.

The two countries happen to be the world’s major players in the supply chain of the metal – an essential material used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

Argentina is located in a region with the highest concentrations of the mineral – South America’s so-called Lithium Triangle, which contains more than half of the world’s reserves – while Chinese companies are the biggest buyers and investors of lithium mines around the globe and refine two-thirds of the world’s lithium.

As major economies are all aiming to shift to electric cars in the global fight against climate change, the silvery-white alkali metal has been increasingly called “the new oil” and “white gold”.

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