Japan and China Battle for Bolivia’s Lithium Mining Rights

16 June 2009 (Last Updated June 16th, 2009 18:30)

China and Japan are battling it out to gain maximum stakes in the lithium-rich deserts of south-west Bolivia. Both countries have been reportedly involved in high-level lobbying to woo the Bolivian authorities for mining rights. Lithium is used in the manufacturing of batteries

China and Japan are battling it out to gain maximum stakes in the lithium-rich deserts of south-west Bolivia.

Both countries have been reportedly involved in high-level lobbying to woo the Bolivian authorities for mining rights.

Lithium is used in the manufacturing of batteries crucial in the growing electric car market, UK newspaper The Times has reported.

It was reported that China has offered cash, military vehicles and ships to Bolivia.

Japan recently sent a delegation of corporate and government executives, including figures from Sumitomo and Mitsubishi, who pledged to share mining technology with Bolivia, the newspaper said.

Chile is the world’s biggest producer of lithium but Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia is thought to hold about half the world's proven lithium reserves.

Bolivia National Mining director Freddy Beltran told local newspaper La Razon the government wants to mine the Salar De Uyuni without international involvement but has conceded that the country will need technology partners to help develop lithium batteries.

China has about one-tenth of the estimated global lithium reserves and is the world's third-largest producer, according to The Times.

Mining rights in Bolivia would give China a major foothold in the yet untapped electric vehicle segment.

Japan, on the other hand, is fighting for the continuous supply of lithium for its electronics and lithium-focused car industry.