The World Can’t Wean Itself Off Chinese Lithium – by (Wired Magazine – June 30, 2022)

China dominates the global supply chain for lithium-ion batteries. Now rival countries are scrambling for more control over “white oil.”

THE INDUSTRIAL PORT of Kwinana on Australia’s western coast is a microcosm of the global energy industry. From 1955, it was home to one of the largest oil refineries in the region, owned by British Petroleum when it was still the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

It once provided 70 percent of Western Australia’s fuel supplies, and the metal husks of old tanks still dominate the shoreline, slowly turning to rust in the salt air.

The refinery shut down in March 2021, but it isn’t just oil below the region’s red soil: Australia is also home to almost half of the world’s lithium supply. The trucks and machinery are humming once again, but now they’re part of a race to secure the clean energy sources of the future—a race being dominated by China.

Over the past 30 years, lithium has become a prized resource. It’s a vital component of batteries—for the phone or laptop you’re reading this on, and for the electric vehicles that will soon rule the roads. But until recently, the lithium mined in Australia had to be refined and processed elsewhere. When it comes to processing lithium, China is in a league of its own.

For the rest of this article: