China Looks to Africa in Race for Lithium – by Kate Bartlett (Voice of America – June 4, 2022)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — It is the new gold rush, and China is leading the hunt as prices surge. Only it’s not gold everyone’s looking for, it’s lithium. Many say the future of electric vehicle production and, more broadly, combatting climate change, depend on the rare metal.

Prices for the “green metal” have seen an almost 500% increase in the past year, according to Bloomberg. Sung Choi, a metals analyst at BloombergNEF, told VOA, “The cost of lithium has risen because virtually all automakers have jumped onto producing electric vehicles.”

Electric car tsar and Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the “insane” costs meant “Tesla might actually have to get into the mining & refining directly at scale.”

That is exactly what China has been doing, and its companies are looking to make sure they don’t run out of the metal needed to make lithium-ion batteries – which China, which has the largest EV market in the world, produces 80% of globally.

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