What if we became as dependent upon Grey Gold as we are on Black Gold?
In it’s most recent issue, the French weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, compares Bolivia to Saudi Arabia. To wit: Bolivia has over half of the world reserves of Lithium (a metal whose price has risen nearly 1000% in over 5 years, going from $350 to $3000 per metric ton), mostly located in the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt desert. Because Lithium batteries are essential for electric cars, this metal could create a fortune for whichever countries can produce this—notably Bolivia and its neighbor Chile, who control 40% of the global market. So naturally, Bolivian Lithium has become the envy of many. Large industrial groups such as Mitsubishi and Bolloré have submitted requests to mine it. Still, there are some unresolved issues pertaining to this—most particularly with regards to the mining part — that have yet to be put in place. President Evo Morales is currently trying to negotiate with these foreign corporations for the maximum benefit of his country.
But what of ecology? The Nouvel Observateur reminds us that Lithium can be easily exhausted. We can only hope that this windfall for Bolivia does not end up becoming a curse in disguise, with the country being fleeced of its resources as so many African nations have been. What if the new Eldorado was a mirage?