Favorable international demand and a recent discovery of lithium reserves in Brazil caused a rush for the metal, used in electrical batteries, reports the Folha de Sao Paulo. Two ongoing projects will elevate Brazil to the status of one of the world's largest lithium-producing countries in the next decade, according to data from the National Agency for Mining, ANM..
ANM reports that 117 survey applications for lithium were filed by December. That's over three times the amount of last year and almost ten times the number of applications in 2016.
The interest in bringing a lot of expectations at Vale do Jequitinhonha, in Northern Minas Gerais, one of the poorest parts of Brazil, but with a high potential given its lithium reserves.
Lithium, sometimes called oil of the future for its potential in electric fueled cars as a replacement of combustion engines, is a darling commodity in international markets.
Lithium prices skyrocketed recently because of a race to find new reserves, which in turn was caused by developed countries' plans to reduce carbon emissions. Carmakers like Volkswagen have already announced goals to end producing cars fueled by fossil fuels, and several Europeans countries have set time limits for combustion engins..
Currently, Brazil's lithium production is at a small-scale, concentrated in Araçuaí, Minas Gerais, geared towards the domestic market for lubricants and ceramics. But the new investments in surveying for new reserves are already making changes in the industry.
Brazil's participation in the lithium market was shy. But now, with the demand for electric motors, the industry is awakening, says Ivan Jorge Garcia, a specialist in mineral resources at ANM.