The lithium rush

World map lithium resources

Source: © Doug John Miller @ Début Art

Move over, gold; lithium is now the metal in global demand. Kit Chapman untangles the global politics around the sought-after resource

When Sony launched the first lithium–ion rechargeable battery in 1991, few could have predicted how rapidly they would become a cornerstone of our lives. Now, barely 30 years later, they fill our homes and pockets – and are taking over our roads with the electric car revolution, as well its potential use in large-scale energy storage devices. It’s the lithium rush – something akin to the demand for copper or nitrates during the industrial revolution, or oil during the 20th  century. And, like those ages before, we’re already seeing a change in global agendas as countries vie for control of the lightest metal on the periodic table.