Toyota secures lithium supply in Argentina
January 20, 2010 -- A key supplier of Toyota Motor Corp. has formed a partnership to mine lithium in Argentina, a sign of the importance of the metal which is critical in the production of next-generation hybrids and electric cars.
The move, announced late Tuesday, signals the growing role that lithium is likely to play in the auto industry in the coming years. Lithium, the lightest metal on the periodic table, is a critical ingredient in lithium-ion batteries - currently found mostly in cell phones, laptops and some high-end electric cars. It is expected to see much wider use in next-generation automobile batteries.
"This generation and the next generation of batteries in automobiles ... is going to be lithium," said Don Hillebrand, director of the Transportation Research Center at Argonne National Laboratory. "Looking at the cutting edge stuff 10 or 30 years out, that's going to be lithium too, and probably more lithium intensive."
The partnership announced Tuesday includes Toyota Tsusho Corp. and Australian miner Orocobre Ltd. They will develop a lithium mine in northwestern Argentina. The project is expected to cost about $100 million, Orocobre Chairman James Calaway said.
Orocobre expects the mine, Salar de Olaroz, to begin commercial production in 2012.
Toyota Tsusho, partly owned by Toyota Motor, based in Toyota City in central Japan, is securing a low-cost loan from the Japanese government to help fund 60 percent of the mining project.
toyota, argentina, business/finance
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