The Blog

Lithium Wars

Lithium, a very soft silver white metal belonging to the alkali group of metals which carries the atomic number 3 is about to become one of the most sought after substances on earth, if it hasn't already!

While watching the James Bond Movie Quantum of Solace with my grandson a while ago I began to think about Lithium.

Lithium, a very soft silver white metal belonging to the alkali group of metals which carries the atomic number 3 is about to become one of the most sought after substances on earth, if it hasn't already!

Why? Because it's a super conductor which means it's use within the development of batteries is an essential ingredient for production, not only of iPhones, iPads and Tablets but importantly electric cars and other forms of green transport.

It was Benjamin Franklin, that great polymath and founding father of The United States, who in 1749 first coined the word battery when he was linking a group of capacitors together, but the battery as we know it is about to enter a whole new era of importance, due entirely to lithium.

Lithium use in the hugely important science of robotics will become more obvious to the general public as the years unfold.

Lithium, which is found in brine, clay and certain rock face, exists in various countries around the world, particularly, Chile, China, and Bolivia.

In my opinion though it is Bolivia that is set to become as important to developing green technology as oil was to the development of the internal combustion engine, and therefore cars.

Transmutation of lithium atoms to helium in 1932 was the world's first fully man made nuclear reaction. Today it is used in the production of thermonuclear weapons as well as for more positive and peaceful uses like those mentioned above.

It is an essential trace element and is present in all organisms. Lithium is rarer than 25 of the 32 trace elements that exist and because of its use as described will become a source of conflict as commercial applications continue to unfold.

Lithium Wars may be a strong description but it's extraction will cause a few commercial, if not military, battles that's for sure!

Bolivia is a very poor landlocked country in South America where many of its people work in salt mines which let's face it isn't a lifestyle choice many of us would make.

The country has borders with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Peru.

Salt and brine is important in developing commercial quantities of lithium which in turn may turn this nation of around 10 million people into the new Saudi Arabia. What Saudi has been to Oil for the last 100 years Bolivia may be to lithium!

Bolivia hasn't historically had a stable government, although it has been a constitutional democracy since 1990, this relative instability leaves it potentially open to influence by interested parties.

Rich in minerals generally and with extreme biodiversity, It's silver deposits mainly funded the expansion of the Spanish Empire, indeed Spanish is still the official language, although over 30 others are spoken!

As I say it was the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace that made me start to think about lithium and the future global investment opportunities that exist. You will need to watch the film to understand what I mean but suffice to say both Bolivia and Lithium emerge as important parts of the films plot.

The Salar De Uyuni, a little known cacti desert expanding to over 5000 sq miles is situated in central Bolivia and contains nearly half of the world's lithium beneath its 10 billion tons of salt which factually makes this South American Republic something of a commercial hotspot.

It will be interesting to see how the current Bolivian Government handles the huge commercial interest which will inevitably be focused upon this sparsely populated nation of mainly indigenous people.

Retaining control over production by way of granting licences will be essential if the country and its people's are to retain much of the wealth created.

Water is scarce in this landlocked country so ensuring some of the money goes into clean water production will be important. Developing the nations tourist industry is another potential area of economic development.

Bolivia is so bio-diverse that the potential for attracting tourists is vast.

As the world progresses from its dependency on oil it will be lithium that will fuel much of its future growth. It is essential that governments around the world deal with the Bolivians fairly. It's their turn to prosper as their natural resources help the rest of us to prosper too.

Retaining money to spend on education, health improvements and nutrition is essential, as are improvements to Bolivian airports. Being landlocked, further airport development is vital for tourism to expand exponentially.

Funny what springs to mind while watching a movie but rather than Quantum of Solace I hope lithium will help Bolivia make a quantum leap in its economy for the benefit of its own people and the rest of the world.