What the fuss is all about: Lithium in Chile

Lithium is getting a lot of attention in Chile these days. One thing most people don’t know is what the heck lithium is really like. Here are a couple pictures to explain.

An abandoned nitrate mine near Antofagasta. Possible source of lithium. Brown.

Refined lithium metal. Probably from the Salar de Atacama. White.

Also, the biggest use of lithium worldwide today is glass and ceramics. You may not have known that. And now you do. For no extra charge. Next week: how to pronounce “Верхоянск.”

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6 thoughts on “What the fuss is all about: Lithium in Chile

  1. Gringo

    Lithium has also been getting attention in Bolivia. i recalled reading about Lithium and Bolivia several years ago. Googling lithium bolivia morales struck pay dirt. Bolivia has nearly half the world’s lithium reserves. Several years ago Evo said that Bolivia was going to set up lithium battery manufacturing in Bolivia. Given the hundreds of years of mining in Bolivia, beginning with silver enriching Madrid much more than colonial La Paz, Bolivia was reluctant to sign any deals.

    Apparently Bolivia has struck a deal with a consortium of South Korean companies.

    Under the deal, the consortium and Bolivia`s Comibol will each own half of the venture by investing 2.4 million U.S. dollars. For Korea, POSCO will own 26 percent and the remainder will taken by the resource corporation (9 percent), LG International (5 percent), Kyungdong (5 percent), Union Corp. (3 percent) and Aju Corp. (2 percent).
    Comibol will supply lithium carbon to the joint venture, and the Korean side will manufacture cathode material trial products by the end of next year with technology of EMS, a POSCO subsidiary.
    Lee Sung-won, director of POSCO`s lithium promotion team, said, “Following the manufacturing of test products, we will expand investment for commercialization.”

    What held things up was reaching a agreement on royalties associated with the technology.

    Given the much greater Lithium resources that Bolivia has relative to Chile, this is more important news. The previous big use of Lithium was for medication for treating manic depressives. Nowadays: batteries. BIG.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Gringo: An agreement in Bolivia is not “important news.” A mine in Bolivia would indeed be very interesting and important. But agreements are easy. The reason I focused on the Chilean bid round for lithium (not capitalized, by the way) is that Chile respects contracts (to a fault, perhaps). So this process, if it attracts any real bids, is as good as a mine. In Bolivia, an agreement is just a first step. There is no way to know if it will ever turn into a mine. See China’s iron ore agreement, for example.

  2. etudiant

    The white powder shown is probably lithium hydroxyde.
    Wikipedia has a nice picture of metallic lithium floating in its oil bath here:

  3. Gringo

    A comment I made a number of days ago never got posted, so I will repeat without the extensive documentation of the previous comment.[Not only to save time and not reinvent the wheel, but because I suspect that my two links may have resulted in the comment being treated as spam.] Bolivia has substantially more lithium reserves than Chile. Bolivia recently signed an agreement with a South Korean consortium regarding exploitation of its lithium reserves.Lithium= next big thing in batteries. BIG BUCKS.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Hi Gringo, I don’t know what happened to your note. I checked the spam heap and don’t see it. And yes, Bolivia has bigger reserves. There’s no shortage of lithium.

      1. sapitosetty Post author

        I found your comment in the spam heap and restored it. Sorry bout that. Comment spam has been extreme lately and it was further down the pile than I thought. Thanks for playing.

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