Lithium: The Driving Force of the 21st Century

Matjaž Krivic

Following the tracks of a game-changing mineral.


Batteries are catalysts of massive changes in our time, both industrial and social. The boom of battery-driven cars, phones and robots are causing the market for its core component lithium to soar, creating a modern-day gold rush with geostrategic consequences. This story follows the value chain of this rare mineral, from investment and prospecting in the US, mining in Bolivia, the production of batteries and cars in China to the small oil state Norway leading the way to electrify all of its transportation – cars, buses, planes and boats. This is the story of how lithium is changing societies and just possibly might have a role in saving our planet. But at a high cost. 


As the need for climate protection gets stronger, the development of cleaner energy is gaining momentum. At the same time, a key part of the solution, lithium, and the production of the material, is not without its own hazards and sins. Lithium pollution is an increasing problem wherever it is mined, and there also are threats to local communities that become totally controlled by mining companies. The supply of lithium is not fast enough to accommodate the demand, and signs of a bottleneck effect are already manifesting with Chinese, Australian and American corporations buying lithium mines in countries around the world to ensure reserves for the future. The story looks at a future unravelling in front of our eyes. We see how the transition from fossil to electric is actually happening, with all its wonderful possibilities. But also, how it is affecting geopolitics and how clean energy also comes with risk and at a price. 

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