Lithium In The News, Little Do We Know

Toyota and Honda would not be selling a lot of hybrid cars if they didn't have enough lithium for the rechargable batteries needed. Your cell phone or your brand new iPad would not work without it. This little known mineral is rare, and we know little of how it is mined for use in all kinds of applications (known as "eco" here in Japan). Is it not rather telling that most people have no idea at all where the important metals and minerals are coming from? Who is keeping such information from the consumers?

On his visit to Tokyo, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said this week that Japan takes priority over other nations when it comes to mining his country's vast mineral deposits. Karzai made his proclamation during a five-day visit to Japan. Grist has more, and Huffington Post even quoted our very own Japan Times:

"Morally, Afghanistan should give access as a priority to those countries that have helped Afghanistan massively in the past few years," he said, noting Japan has been his country's No. 2 aid donor.

"What . . . we have to reciprocate with is this opportunity of mineral resources, that we must return at the goodwill of the Japanese people by giving Japan priority to come and explore and extract," he said.

Karzai also revealed he would be meeting officials from Mitsubishi Corp. later Friday to discuss mining operations.

The mineral resources should be explored in an environmentally friendly manner and must be used in an accountable way "to prevent corruption in the country." Time and patience to explore these minerals, however, is necessary, he added.

"Rather than doing it quickly, we should do it properly with adequate safeguards, adequate environmental guarantees in place, and (a) proper system of management and distribution," Karzai said. "The sooner the better, keeping these three factors in mind."

Photo from the Office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which also has the entire text of the press release by the leaders of Japan and Afghanistan... U.S. data about lithium is "withheld" and major producers like Chile are called the "Saudi Arabia of Lithium" by American journalists, writing for Forbes:

Until recently lithium was a minor commodity, used in small quantities by manufacturers of glass, grease and mood-stabilizing drugs. But demand has skyrocketed in recent years, as BlackBerrys and iPods have become middle-class staples. Between 2003 and 2007 the battery industry doubled its consumption of lithium carbonate, the most common ingredient used in lithium-based products. The lithium bonanza may just be starting. Lithium-ion batteries are integral to the automobile industry's plans to wean itself off fossil fuels.
So, do have a look inside your mobile phone. Take a look at that square battery that helps you keep in touch with friends, family, lovers, or business associates. If it says "Li-ion" (CELL ORIGIN JAPAN/FINISHED IN CHINA) you know you are part of the global rush for lithium. Except, they will not tell you where the lithium was mined.


Pandabonium said…
Excellent post.

"Coincidentally" (cough) the largest known reserve of lithium is in Bolivia. But the USA is not happy with the Bolivian government (headed by that pinko-commie Evo Morales) so is very happy to announce that Afghanistan has um "lots" of the stuff. Almost makes all the death seem worthwhile, eh?

Really embarrassing (disgusting) to have the corrupt Mr. Karzai making this offer to Japan. Japan is paying quite a price in its support of US foreign policy, isn't it?

Of course, to get at any of the minerals of Afghanistan, there must first be a few preliminary steps - payoffs to the corrupt government, roads, water, electricity, railroads, oh, and that pesky issue of security for it all....

And all of it requires what? oil. Anybody got any spare oil for this project?
Martin J Frid said…
No wonder the British didn't like leaving the region after WW2 back when India and Pakistan and that entire region demanded independence.

Corruption is nothing new, P.

But it used to be shrouded behind more superior, even glorious ("Rule Britannia!") terms:

When Britain first, at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:

"Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
"Britons never will be slaves."

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

Dread mostly, not so much envy, these days... But of course, we are allowing some karmic justice to prevail, fairly, as said guardian angels would have no other role to play, now, would they?

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