Demand for Lithium About to Take Off
PAPILLION, NE -- For many years, few metals drew bigger yawns from mining executives than lithium, a lightweight element long associated mostly with mood-stabilizing drugs.
Suddenly, the yawns are being replaced by eurekas. As awareness spreads that lithium is a crucial ingredient for hybrid and electric cars, a global hunt is under way for new supplies of the metal.
Toyota Tsusho, the material supplier for the big Japanese automaker, announced a joint venture in January with the Australian miner Orocobre to develop a $100 million lithium project in Argentina. That deal came only days after Magna International, the Canadian car parts company that is helping develop a battery-powered version of the Ford Focus, announced that it was investing $10 million in a small Canadian lithium firm that also has projects in Argentina.
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