Toyota Tsusho Corp. said Sept. 26 it has reached a deal with Argentina that would allow the company to mine enough lithium to meet Japan's yearly demand.
It will be the first time for a Japanese company to purchase the rights to large-scale mining of lithium, which is used in batteries for gas-electric hybrid and electric vehicles.
Toyota Tsusho will establish a joint venture with an Australian resource exploration company and another partner and invest several billions of yen (tens of millions of dollars) in the project.
Production is planned to start in 2014 in the Salar de Olaroz brine in northwestern Argentina.
Toyota Tsusho has been carrying out a feasibility study for the Argentine mining project since 2010, aiming to secure a stable supply of the strategically important resource.
Domestic demand is about 17,000 tons a year for lithium carbonate, enough to supply batteries for about 550,000 average electric vehicles.
The joint venture in Argentina will be able to produce those amounts for at least 15 years.
Presently, the world's lithium demand is a little less than 150,000 tons a year. With the spread of next-generation vehicles, such as hybrid and electric vehicles, however, the demand will likely double to 300,000 tons a year in 2025.
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