Tech-age buried treasure
On the edge of the evaporated sea, the broken white earth spread hundreds of miles on the desolate horizon, and the first buildings of a project were surrounded by wooden scaffolding, the project could transform the poorest countries in South America into the world\'s major energy suppliers.
Under this high desert in the Andes, the supply of lithium is about half of the Earth, which dwarfs all other known sources of rare minerals, which have seen a surge in demand in recent years.
It is used to make batteries that power everything from mobile phones to electric cars.
The government of Bolivia is about to launch millions
The dollar pilot project, deep into the original Salt Beach, mined the salt water liquid below for valuable elements.
The U. S. Geological Survey estimates at least five.
4 million tons of lithium can be extracted from Uyuni Salar, compared with only 410,000 tons in the United States.
\"This project is of great strategic significance to Bolivia.
\"For the world,\" said Moises Vallejos, head of plant safety, noting that the new brick houses will accommodate engineers and scientists who expect to start mining lithium this year.
\"This is the beginning of a big deal.
\"Bolivia\'s plan could also have a significant impact on Massachusetts, where companies such as A123 Systems Inc.
Watertown and Westborough in BostonPower Corp.
Rely on light weight, reliable sources of heat
Anti-metal for making lithium-
Ion batteries for next generation electronics and cars.
Most of the lithium in the world now comes from less and less reserves in Chile and Argentina, but with millions of hybrid and electric vehicles scheduled to be on assembly lines from Detroit to Tokyo in the next decade, demand for the first three elements of the periodic table is expected to increase significantly.
A us Geological Survey report last year pointed out that for most of the past decade, the amount of lithium consumed by global batteries has increased by more than 20% annually, and in the next decade, it may rise more.
Some even think that the world supply may not be enough to meet the expected demand for lithiumion batteries.
Officials at two fast-growing American battery companies declined to say where they got lithium, but they noted that, supply is of strategic importance for their future and ensuring that rechargeable batteries can be produced in an affordable way.
For example, the price of lithium carbonate (chemical compounds used in batteries) imported from the United States rose by an average of 26% in 2008 from the previous year, according to the latest data from the U. S. Geological Survey.
\"The demand for lithium will surge,\" said Jason Forcier, vice president of automotive solutions for A123 Systems, which last year received $0. 249 billion in federal stimulus funding, used to produce thousands of new lithiumion batteries.
\"It is fair to compare the lithium reserves in South America with oil in the Middle East. We see lithium-
For at least the next decade, the ion battery will be used as a power source for the battery.
\"There is a need to ensure a stable source of high profits --
High quality lithium has prompted cars and electronics companies around the world to compete for exclusive rights to supply.
A subsidiary of Toyota Motor.
Recently, it said it would spend tens of millions of dollars to help set up lithium factories in Argentina. companies such as China and France have sent delegates to Bolivia to meet with government officials in La Paz.
But so far, the government of President Evo Morales, the recently re-elected nationalist, has often criticized the United States and nationalized Bolivia\'s oil and gas industry, china has refused to allow foreign companies to exploit its lithium.
\"This is what we do ourselves --
\"For the people of Bolivia,\" said Yolanda Marani, a spokeswoman for the Comibol division, the national agency responsible for overseeing the mining project, overseeing the pilot project.
\"The plan is to keep it 100% Bolivia.
She declined to say whether the United States or other foreign companies will eventually be allowed to help Bolivia mine lithium, which may be necessary for Bolivia to become a major supplier.
\"We are at the beginning of a long process,\" Mamani said . \".
The slow pace of efforts to mine the Uyuni in Bolivia does not worry Christina Lampe --
Boston Chief Executive Officer Onnerud-
Power companies that have recently started mass production of lithium
Ion batteries in ChinaWhile Lampe-
Onnerud noted a 2008 report from Meridian International Research, a French technology consultancy, found that global supply was high
High quality lithium is not enough to meet the needs of millions of new batteries, she said she expects no shortage in the next decade.
She added that the recovery of silver was increased
Non-ferrous metals will reduce supply concerns.
\"At this point, it is very speculative whether Bolivia will become the OPEC of lithium or whether there will be a supply shortage,\" she said . \".
\"I have completed my mission to create a more sustainable model for lithium, including recycling and reducing dependence on raw metals.
But there is no doubt that lithium
Ion is the future.
Some scientists question whether lithium
Ion batteries are combustible in some cases and are suitable for the upcoming fleet of electric vehicles.
They want to know how they will stick to the crash over time.
Don Sadoway, Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT, said: \"This is a stupid choice because it is too unstable and too expensive . \" His research includes trying to find a replacement for lithium. ion batteries.
\"It\'s an illusion to pretend you won\'t take extreme measures to keep the battery cool.
I wouldn\'t use lithium ion in an ideal world, but if this is the best way to go beyond the internal combustion engine, I support it now.
\"A new technology could make Bolivia\'s lithium supply irrelevant, a prospect that prompted the country\'s officials to speed up the $6 million pilot project uyouni near Rio Grande village on the edge of salade
In the coming months, despite concerns about the environmental impact, the Bolivian will drill holes in the white crust until they reach the liquid containing lithium.
They will then use industrial pumps to extract brine, which will be collected in large pools that can evaporate.
The final slush will be processed into powder and eventually formed into small bricks.
In the poor areas of a poor country, there are very few roads laid, electricity comes and goes, and the prospect of a new industry and a new source of employment excites local officials.
While they are concerned about the impact of large mining operations on the land, they are happy to compare the desert to the desert in Saudi Arabia.
\"We are all waiting to see how the results are,\" said Francisco kuistbert, leader of Frutcas, a local workers\' federation called comrade Lithium.
\"We think it will create a whole new economy for us.
It took us some time, but we were very optimistic.
\"You can contact David Abel @ globe. com.