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Latin America poised for a lithium boom

Aug. 9, 2012 at 6:58 PM   |   Comments

SAO PAULO, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Latin America is poised for a lithium boom as mining companies seek deposits of the mineral for urgent and large-scale development.

Lithium-ion batteries are critical to computers and smartphones and are seen as the ultimate solution in the auto industry's quest for a clean, environmentally friendly battery-powered car.

More than 70 percent of the world's salt lake lithium deposits are in South America and investors are eyeing untapped or undeveloped lithium sources outside Chile, the current major producer, in Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia.

U.S. Geological Survey data indicate Bolivia contains almost half of the world's lithium reserves, which remain untapped.

But Mexico is seen as the next hotspot because of its easier investment climate, close ties with the United States and free trade environment.

China and other international investors see Mexico as a favored destination for low-cost lithium extraction and manufacture of lithium-based products for distribution across the Americas and the Pacific.

Lithium markets in Latin America are set to explode as demand rises for new technologies from Apple iPads to electric cars, Green Technology Solutions mining subsidiary GTSO Resources said.

GTSO Resources said it would focus on Chile.

Deposits of lithium are found throughout the Andes Mountains and both Chile and Argentina recover lithium from brine pools.

Lithium is poised to rise in value dramatically as demand grows globally. China, a major producer of batteries, is tapping markets to find and secure more lithium resources for itself.

Despite Bolivia's large lithium reserves, the country's mercurial politics have put off investors.

GTSO said lithium mining in Chile could pay off handsomely if lithium prices continue to rise as expected.

"We're moving aggressively to increase shareholder value by acquiring new projects and sourcing joint venture partners to expand the scope and diversify the risk of our exploration efforts in Chile," GTSO Chief Executive Officer Paul Watson said.

Traditional mining isn't the only path to potential profits with Chilean lithium, it said. GTSO is in talks with CCI Capital SpA for assistance to develop and implement urban mining deals in Chile.

It said the country's mining infrastructure and growing e-waste stream make it an ideal environment for sustainable minerals investment.

New research has shown that sustainable urban mining practices could help dramatically reduce the world's carbon emissions.

By recycling a ton of steel, carbon emissions can be reduced by 2.1 tons. A ton of recycled aluminum eliminates 7.9 tons of emissions and a ton of recycled computers reduces emissions by four tons. As concern over pollution and climate change grows around the world, demand for recycled materials is rising, the research indicates.

Topics: Paul Watson
© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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