By Timur Fomenko, a political analyst
Lithium is the important mineral for renewable power sources, and is gearing as much as change into to the 21 century what coal was to the earlier two centuries.
The mineral is the important thing materials in producing lithium-ion batteries, which energy every part from cell phones to electrical vehicles. Extra importantly, it’s deemed to be a “pillar for the fossil-fuel free economy” by the United Nations, seen as the first approach to retailer power within the clear energy grids of the longer term. As such, lithium has change into one of the sought-after commodities with its value surging by over 500% prior to now two years.
Geopolitical currents are driving a scramble for the valuable mineral by world powers. There’s a struggle over who controls provide chains, began by the US, which has rejected globalization and is looking for to reassert its affect over important international items by forcibly re-shoring them and undermining rivals (a key facet of its strategy in direction of Russia and China).
With its dominant place over renewable power items and applied sciences, China has change into the main target of the Biden administration’s efforts to regain a lead within the trade. Washington’s extra aggressive posture has seen the 2 international locations at odds over who can find and exploit lithium deposits across the planet. Whoever controls the provision chain will dominate the trade.
The availability chain begins the place the useful resource in query is discovered. On this, China has a head begin, possessing each a major quantity of lithium and the flexibility to mine it. It ranks sixth on this planet for total lithium sources (5.1 million tons) and fourth in mineable reserves (1.5 million tons). The US itself has extra lithium sources with 9.1 million tons, however its present mineable reserves stand at solely 750,000 tons. Sources on this case relate to identified deposits of lithium whereas mineable reserves are these which might be already being extracted and utilized.
Whereas having Australia on its aspect, with its 5.7 million tons of lithium reserves, might assist shift the steadiness in its favor, it appears the US is dropping its grip on a area that’s wealthy in lithium deposits and in addition one Washington has dominated for many years if not centuries: Central and South America. In the meantime, China is making vital advances in these key areas.
Latin America alone possesses 56% of the world’s Lithium deposits. These are concentrated in Bolivia, Argentina, Chile (the ‘lithium triangle’), and Brazil. Bolivia’s 21 million tons are virtually untapped, and whereas Argentina exploits 2.2 million of its 19 million tons of total sources, there’s clearly room to develop. As well as, Mexico additionally has 1.7 million tons. Now, the US and China are competing for entry to this huge provide.
Historically, the US has claimed hegemony over the Americas by means of its Monroe Doctrine coverage, which is meant to stop the emergence of another competing energy within the area. As a way to preserve this dominance, Washington has waged centuries price of wars and engineered regime change and coups in Latin American international locations, the newest effort being the unsuccessful try to take away Nicholas Maduro from Venezuela (which itself needed to do with oil).
Because the geopolitical and financial rivalry between the US and China heats up, Beijing has sought to spend money on many lithium ventures throughout the Americas. The US has responded by leveraging political energy the place it could actually. There have been efforts to dam a Chinese language firm from exploring lithium in Mexico, and Canada lately ordered three Chinese language corporations to divest from its mineral firms citing issues of nationwide safety. Each of those international locations are events to the USMCA – United States – Mexico – Canada Settlement, and with China gone, their lithium mines might be extra open to American funding.
Washington’s efforts haven’t been profitable in each occasion. The primary nation for Lithium reserves, Bolivia, will not be a US-friendly nation and leans far to the left politically. As such, a number of weeks in the past a Chinese language consortium secured a deal in La Paz that offers it the correct to develop two lithium crops. The Chinese language firm will make investments over $1 billion into the primary stage of the mission.
The US additionally faces challenges in Argentina and Brazil, with each international locations rejecting the Monroe Doctrine and looking for to safe their pursuits in a extra multipolar atmosphere. With the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro and the return of left-wing Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, it appears apparent that Brazil will pitch itself as a part of a multipolar atmosphere and search engagement with China, discarding the Sinophobic, pro-US streak embraced by his predecessor. A 12 months in the past, Argentina joined China’s Belt and Street initiative, and in July final 12 months a Chinese language firm accomplished a close to $1 billion deal to take over of an Argentinian Lithium agency, one thing the US was not capable of block.
Geopolitical tensions are heating up as quick as an overstressed lithium battery. A future full of electrical vehicles and renewable, clear power could also be coming, however local weather points and the way forward for humanity usually are not the driving drive right here. Shared international pursuits are dogged by the politics of which nation ought to get to fabricate these electrical vehicles, and which nation ought to management the provision chains to make them. The US has an issue with China getting forward, which is creating a brand new showdown within the Americas.
The statements, views and opinions expressed on this column are solely these of the creator and don’t essentially symbolize these of RT.