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‘White gold’: EV boom sparks rush for lithium

Some call it ‘white gold’. And there’s certainly a rush under way to find more lithium. It’s a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles. And as demand for EVs booms, miners are in a hurry to find more of the ultra-light metal. That spells good news for Argentina. It’s already the world’s fourth-largest producer. At remote mines in the country’s north, only wind noise and the hum of machinery breaks the silence. But the race is on to ramp up production. Flavia Royon is secretary of mining and energy in Salta province: “For the next few years we have projects that go from 10,000 tons up to 40,000 tons, it all depends on the plants. In the next few years Salta will easily position itself as the producer of 200,000 tons of lithium carbonate.”Provinces like Salta are building logistics nodes and new access roads, as well as cutting tax rates and rationalizing confusing rules for the sector. The national government helped by cutting its taxes on mining exports, and has backed a state firm to build a battery plant. All that has sparked a flurry of activity and deals in a sector long held back by red tape, rampant inflation and other troubles. David Guerrero Alvarado is advising one Canadian firm working in the country. “Argentina could become the world’s leading producer from brines in less than a decade if the flow of projects is followed and maintained.”Argentina had previously bet on biofuels as its big play in the move to alternative energy sources. But officials are now signalling a shift in emphasis to lithium. As miners celebrate, that could leave farmers feeling out in the cold.


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