Friday, February 6, 2009

Day 231: Where the salt lies

a lithium extracting pool on Bolivia's coveted salt flats, Noah Friedman-Rudovsky for The New York Times

"Demand for lithium, long used in small amounts in mood-stabilizing drugs and thermonuclear weapons, has climbed as makers of batteries for BlackBerrys and other electronic devices use the mineral. But the automotive industry holds the biggest untapped potential for lithium, analysts say. Since it weighs less than nickel, which is also used in batteries, it would allow electric cars to store more energy and be driven longer distances...

The United States Geological Survey says 5.4 million tons of lithium could potentially be extracted in Bolivia, compared with 3 million in Chile, 1.1 million in China and just 410,000 in the United States. Independent geologists estimate that Bolivia might have even more lithium at Uyuni and its other salt deserts, though high altitudes and the quality of the reserves could make access to the mineral difficult.

While estimates vary widely, some geologists say electric-car manufacturers could draw on Bolivia’s lithium reserves for decades to come." read more in "In Bolivia, Untapped Bounty Meets Nationalism"

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