Article by the Telegraph
More than 11,000 feet up in the Andes mountains of southwest Bolivia lies Salar de Uyuni, a remote salt flat that is home to some of the world’s largest reserves of lithium.
Largely untapped, the seemingly endless expanse of bright white salt plains are on the verge of a frenzy of activity as a global scramble erupts to extract the metal and secure supplies for lithium-ion batteries – a basic building material for the electric vehicle industry.
Last month, Germany struck a deal with Bolivia under which YLB, a state-owned chemicals firm, will work alongside German industrial company ACI Systems to produce 40,000 tons of lithium per year in Salar de Uyuni once operations begin in 2022.
With the International Energy Agency predicting the number of electric vehicles on the road globally to hit 125m by 2030, the rush for lithium and other battery metals like cobalt is attracting players old and new. Established player Albemarle is bringing new lithium mines online in Western Australia, while Erik Prince, the founder of US private military contractor Blackwater, has plans to launch a $500m (£392m) fund focused on battery metals.
But valuing resources like lithium, which suddenly grab the attention of global investors, is never easy. Prices have proved extraordinarily volatile, plunging 29pc last year from $158 to $111 per kilogram and prompting many to ask: has the lithium bubble already burst?