Archive | Battery Technology Innovation/Electric Vehicles

DEBUNKER: Bolivia’s Lithium Isn’t The New Oil – by Keith Johnson and James Palmer (Foreign Policy – November 13, 2019)

The recent ouster of Bolivian President Evo Morales has sparked plenty of theories, especially on the left. One of the most prominent has been the idea that the military’s intervention is a coup intended to ensure U.S. control of a critical global resource: lithium.

That’s part of a tradition that sees U.S. foreign policy as being essentially about controlling natural wealth by any means necessary—one rooted in real American practices, from the deployment of U.S. Marines in defense of the United Fruit Company’s interests in Central America to President Donald Trump’s repeated orders to troops to protect oil, not Kurds, in Syria. But in this instance, the idea, heavily touted in the online left-wing media and by the occasional politician, is fundamentally mistaken.

Lithium is undoubtedly important to the future economy, because it’s one of the key components in lithium ion batteries that power everything from laptops to many electric cars. U.S. strategists have been interested in it since the 1960s for just these reasons. Continue Reading →

United States sitting out race to mine ocean floor for metals essential to electronics (CBS News – November 13, 2019)

One of the most high-stakes races in history is underway, with colossal riches waiting for the winners. It’s a race to a little known frontier: the bottom of the sea. Around the world, thousands of engineers and scientists are in fierce competition to build the first undersea robot that can mine the ocean floor.

The explosion of interest in deep sea mining is driven by the demands of our high-tech economy. The deep ocean is the El Dorado that contains metals like nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements, essential for use in cell phones, supercomputers and electric cars. They’re also critical for a green future of solar and wind power.

Dozens of nations, including Russia and China, are racing to get there first. But not the United States. As Bill Whitaker reports, America must sit on the sidelines of this great treasure hunt. Whitaker’s report will be broadcast on the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS. Continue Reading →

Is China locking up Indonesian nickel? – by Richard Mills ( – October 2019)

As it has done with cobalt, graphite and rare earths, China appears to be locking up the nickel market. Nickel’s top producer, Indonesia, in early September decided to accelerate a scheduled ban on ore export shipments, from 2022 to January 1, 2020.

The ban which instead took immediate effect on Oct. 28, is to encourage the building of domestic smelters instead of exporting raw nickel, and other metals, for processing abroad. (the country did the same thing in 2014 but lifted the ban three years later).

No coincidence

Is it any coincidence that Indonesia decided in September to ban nickel ore exports, just a few weeks after a meeting between Indonesian president Joko Widodo and Chinese industrial executives, including Xiang Guanda, who in partnership with his wife, runs Tsingshan Holding Group? Continue Reading →

[Lithium] This metal is powering today’s technology—at what price? – by Robert Draper (National Geographic – February 2019)

ONE EARLY SATURDAY morning in La Paz, Álvaro García Linera, the vice president of Bolivia, greets me in the spacious salon outside his office overlooking Plaza Murillo. The debonair, silver-haired 56-year-old politician is known in his country as a committed Marxist ideologue. But today he presents himself as a capitalist pitchman.

The pitch in question involves lithium. García Linera speaks of his country’s natural resource in a simultaneously factual and awestruck way. Lithium, essential to our battery-fueled world, is also the key to Bolivia’s future, the vice president assures me.

A mere four years hence, he predicts, it will be “the engine of our economy.” All Bolivians will benefit, he continues, “taking them out of poverty, guaranteeing their stability in the middle class, and training them in scientific and technological fields so that they become part of the intelligentsia in the global economy.” Continue Reading →

Morales manoeuvred himself out of Bolivia’s presidency – by Gwynne Dyer (London Free Press – November 11, 2019)

“Democracy is in danger in Bolivia as the result of legitimate pressures from the poor. We cannot generate economic growth and well-being for a few and then expect that the large majorities that are excluded will watch silently and patiently.”

A recent president of Bolivia said that, but it wasn’t Evo Morales (who has just quit). It was Carlos Mesa, the man whom Morales tried to cheat out of the presidency in last month’s election. Mesa said it in 2005, the last time he was president, just before he quit and Morales won a landslide victory in the election triggered by his resignation.

Most outside commentators used to stick to a simple script when talking about Bolivia. Morales was the good guy because he was the country’s first Indigenous president (he grew up speaking Aymara, and learned Spanish only as a young adult) and because he looked like and seemed to care about the poor majority of Bolivians. Continue Reading →

Bolivia: Where revolutionaries and lithium miners go to die – by Rick Mills ( – December 26, 2018)

Other than being the country where Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara was killed, most North Americans know little about Bolivia.

The landlocked country is surrounded by Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. Today, it is South America’s poorest nation. But in the 1960s, Bolivia was going to be the launchpad of Che Guevara’s socialist revolution.

Born in Argentina, Ernesto “Che” Guevara became radicalized by the poverty, hunger and disease he saw while traveling South America as a young medical student. He got involved in social reforms enacted by Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz, which were resisted by the United States. Continue Reading →

Protests in Chile, Bolivia threaten India’s search for assets in ‘Lithium Triangle’ – by Ajoy K Das ( – November 11, 2019)

KOLKATA ( – Civil unrest and violence in Chile and prospects of tougher security norms, together with unrelenting protests over a disputed electoral process in Bolivia, have thrown a spanner in the wheels of Indian mining companies getting a toe-hold in the so-called ‘Lithium Triangle’.

As protestors continue to hit the streets, with widespread reports of violence, snowballing into a deeper anti-government movement, India’s recent push for lithium assets in Latin America is being forced to the backburner, if not becoming unstuck completely.

The perception among Indian mining companies planning forays in search of lithium assets in Latin America is that though unrest and violence in Chile was triggered by a marginal hike in subway fares, opposition to the right-of-center neoliberal economic policy of the incumbent Chilean government is at the heart of civil movement. Continue Reading →

Green technology revolution needs a green metals revolution – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – November 6, 2019)

LONDON (Reuters) – “Society expects more of our industry.” That was the stark warning from Jean-Sebastien Jacques, head of one of the world’s largest mining companies, Rio Tinto, in a keynote speech at last week’s London Metal Exchange Week.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind we will face greater regulation and scrutiny,” Jacques went on to say. The scrutiny has already begun. The next day environmental protesters disrupted the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne, leading to multiple arrests and a draconian threat by Australia’s prime minister to ban future anti-mining demonstrations.

Half way around the world, protesters were blocking access roads to SQM’s lithium operations high in Chile’s Atacama Desert in a rumbling dispute over water rights. Here writ small is the industrial metals industry’s big problem. Continue Reading →

Bolivia scraps joint lithium project with German company (Deutsche Welle – November 4, 2019)

The Bolivian government has cancelled a joint partnership with Germany’s privately owned ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) to develop a massive lithium project.

Residents in the city of Potosi, where the joint venture had planned to build a factory for electric vehicle batteries and a lithium hydroxide plant, have been protesting since early October against the project. Organized by the Potosi Civic Committee, protesters say the project would not benefit local communities.

Potosi Department Governor Carlos Cejas said Sunday he had received a decree from the government of President Evo Morales to overturn a previous decree permitting the project, Bolivian state news agency ABI reported. Continue Reading →

Not The Best Deal: Albemarle Pays $1.3 Billion For A Lithium Asset— And Closes It – by Tim Treadgold (Forbes Magazine – November 1, 2019)

Too much lithium and not enough demand for the battery-making material have hit the Australian expansion plans of U.S.-based specialty chemical maker Albemarle Corporation which effectively acquired, and closed, a new mine on the same day.

The deal to buy a stake in the Wodgina lithium mine in Western Australia was first negotiated 12 months ago, a time when lithium prices were higher and demand for the electric vehicles which use it in their batteries was forecast to be stronger than it is.

Celebrations Turn Sour

Rather than celebrating the deal today turned into commiserations with the workforce sent home and the almost new mine put in mothballs. Continue Reading →

Europe-led global certification scheme for raw materials expected in 2020 – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – October 30, 2019)

A group of European bodies and companies have joined efforts to create the first global certification scheme ensuring consistent standards of environmental, social and economic impact throughout the entire raw materials value chain, to be launched next year.

CERA (Certification of Raw Materials), conceived in 2015 by German engineering and consulting firm DMT Group, counts with the support of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), EIT RawMaterials, Volkswagen, Fairphone and research institutions from across Europe.

Companies are under pressure from consumers and investors to prove that minerals are sourced without human rights abuses but tracking raw materials throughout their journey is challenging. Continue Reading →

Cobalt market to avoid shortage despite Congo mine closure: Nornickel – by Anastasia Lyrchikova and Polina Devitt (Reuters U.S. – October 29, 2019)

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Cobalt supply will remain robust despite a price slide that has already led to the closure of a major mine, Russia’s Norilsk Nickel said, as most is produced as a byproduct of more buoyant metals like nickel and copper.

Prices of the battery metal surged in 2017 and 2018 on expectations for an electric vehicle revolution, but have fallen this year due to excessive supply and the impact of the U.S.-China trade war.

They are now down 60% from their spring 2018 peak. In August global mining and trade giant Glencore said it would shutter its Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo from year-end for two years due to low cobalt prices. Continue Reading →

Chile protesters block access to lithium operations: local leader – by Dave Sherwood (Reuters U.S. – October 25, 2019)

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Protesters from indigenous communities around Chile’s Atacama salt flats, among the world’s richest reserves of lithium, have blocked access to lithium operations amid nationwide rallies over inequality, a local leader said on Friday.

The South American nation possesses the world’s largest reserves of the lightweight metal crucial to manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles, laptops and cellphones.

The desert salt basin is home to the world’s top two lithium producers: Chile’s SQM SQMa.SN and U.S.-based Albemarle (ALB.N). Sergio Cubillos, president of the Atacama Indigenous Council, told Reuters a road blockade had shut down SQM’s operations since Wednesday morning. Continue Reading →

Health and safety bigger risks to artisanal miners that conflict minerals — report – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – October 22, 2019)

Risks related to occupational health and safety are more prevalent than human rights abuses and conflict financing among global artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM), a new study by German supply chain auditor RCS Global Group has found.

The group’s Better Mining platform, piloted as ‘Better Cobalt’ on a cobalt supply chain from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) revealed that 26% of all registered incidents in the past year were related to health and safety issues, while only 13% had to do rights abuses and minerals financing conflict.

The Berlin-based organization used mobile technology to gather data from from five separate ASM sites in DRC and Rwanda, focusing on informal and small miners digging for cobalt, copper and the so-called 3TG (gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten). Continue Reading →

Rio Tinto has ‘eureka moment’ with California lithium discovery – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – October 22, 2019)

Rio Tinto said it had found a potentially large source of lithium for electric car batteries while looking for gold in piles of waste rock in California, describing it as a “eureka moment” for the company.

The London-based miner said it could become the largest producer of lithium for batteries in the US if it can successfully process the rock on a larger scale.

The discovery may pave the way for Rio’s entry into the lithium market, which is set to see dramatic growth over the next decade due to the rise of electric vehicles, which are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Continue Reading →