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Chile Bets on Becoming World Lithium Leader as Demand Rises

President Gabriel Boric’s programme to exert state control over lithium production sparks conservative backlash.

Santiago, Chile – It’s white — not yellow — but like gold, lithium has rapidly become one of the most sought-after precious metals on earth. Theoretically you can find it almost anywhere, but in practice lithium is best extracted from salt flats.

This explains why lithium fever is spreading throughout what is known as the lithium triangle, the salt flats of Chile and neighbouring Bolivia and Argentina. According to World Economic Forum, they account for around 60 percent of the world’s known lithium reserves. Of the three, Chile is currently the largest producer.

Driven by the global green energy transition, last year the price of the light, salt-like metal used for batteries in electric vehicles and mobile phones jumped from $14,000 a tonne to over $80,000 in November. And while prices have come down to less stratospheric levels, some estimates predict a 40-fold increase in demand for lithium by 2040.

That is why Chile’s President Gabriel Boric sent shock waves through the new energy metals sector when, in a nationally televised prime-time address on April 20, he announced his keenly anticipated National Lithium Programme.

It calls for the creation of a state-run lithium company that will promote, expand and control the country’s industry. (Chile is already the world’s second-largest producer after Australia.)

Source : Aljazeera