Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bolivia lithium facts documentary

If you have not heard by now, a huge ($1 trillion worth) amount of lithium lies under a salt lake in Bolivia, South America's poorest country.  Here is some background from a 2009 piece.

Though President Evo Morales is keen to keep revenue from the country's mineral resources with its people, he needs outside capital and know-how to extract the lithium.  Being anti-yanqui means no American companies will be allowed in.  Venezuela, a close ally, doesn't even have the wherewithal to efficiently pump out its own oil.  And I think China has screwed over enough African countries for Bolivia to know better.

My bet is that Japanese, South Korean, and Brazilian firms will partner with Bolivia to exploit the lithium.

So what lies in the future?  What if lithium battery technology is replaced by a cheaper, better technology?  Will the Bolivian government be able to effectively modernize and enrich its poverty-stricken nation?  Will Bolivia use the money to build up its military and intimidate Chile into "returning" the strip of land around Arica so that Bolivia will end its landlocked nation status?  Only time will tell.

Here is a 26 minute documentary that came out a few weeks ago about Bolivia's challenges.

Let's hope this does not turn out to be another Potosi mine.  During the colonial period, Indians extracted 137 million pounds of silver out of a mountain.  It did nothing for Bolivia.

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