December 29, 2011
Bolivia has more lithium than anywhere else in the world but its potential to fuel lithium-ion batteries for electric cars is in danger of failing.
The vast reserves of lithium dissolved in a briny lagoon underneath the crust of the world’s highest salt lake have prompted all sorts of superlative comparisons – one of the most memorable is that the land-locked country will become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium”.
It is not a description that goes down well with the socialist government of President Evo Morales. The nation’s first indigenous leader has pledged that Bolivia will exploit the lithium reserves on its own, sustainably, and for the benefit of Bolivians.
But nearly four years after the start of a project to exploit the Salar salt flats’ lithium reserves – estimated to exceed 100m tonnes – there is impatience about when Bolivians will start to benefit from its immense potential.