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So who gets rich next? Bolivia, that's who

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Richard Cable | 14:55 UK time, Wednesday, 29 April 2009

bolivia-man226x226.jpgFor much of its modern history, the Arabian Peninsula has been a hot, arid stretch of land notable as home to two of the holiest mosques of Islam, but with little to recommend it economically. That was until truly colossal reserves of oil were discovered in March 1938, propelling Saudi Arabia to a position of massive geopolitical importance.

In pure cash terms, it was like placing a billion dollar bet on yourself as a 1000-1 shot to win several mammoth rollover lotteries on the bounce, while simultaneously discovering that a long lost great-great-great-great-great uncle called Croesus had left you his entire fortune, which had been sitting in a high interest account since the 6th century BC. And then some.

But with fossil fuels finite and alternative energy sources set to be radically exploited, who's hitting the gushers of the future?

As it turns out, another previously economically unpromising part of the world: Bolivia. The poorest South American nation is sitting on around 50% of the world's lithium reserves and lithium is a key component of the batteries that our electrically-powered cars of the future will be requiring in enormous quantities.

But Bolivia's uncompromising president, Evo Morales, isn't just going to pony-up his natural resources to rapacious foreign exploiters. Instead, Evo wants rapacious foreign exploiters to become benign domestic investors by manufacturing the batteries and maybe even the cars in Bolivia itself. (He probably means business. Morales recently went on hunger strike to force through an election reform.)

Other places set to hit the big time include the plateaus of Western China and Tibet, bits of Western Australia and a fair few US states. As acknowledged world expert on Lithium reserves R Keith Evans says: 'Concerns regarding lithium availability for hybrid or electric vehicle batteries or other foreseeable applications are unfounded.' The Lithium rush starts here.


  • 1. At 00:23am on 01 May 2009, strateshutr wrote:

    The lithium rush starts here?
    Pray tell--why?
    With the current US stockpiles exceeding seven years WORLD'S SUPPLY at 2008 WORLD usage rates, and China and others eager to dig up and refine plenty more of the stuff not to mention any other stockpiles stashed, what I want to know is--What is your reason for the big rush?
    What secretive stuff you keeping secret???

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  • 2. At 10:47am on 01 May 2009, Richard_Cable wrote:

    Good point re: US reserves, but with the Obama Administration's goal of putting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 potentially just the start of a big upswing in demand, Bolivia is clearly well placed to benefit. I guess the rush here refers to the rush to secure long term rights to exploit the resource, rather than a comment on scarcity.

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