AFP has a report on Japanese interest in US based lithium producer Simbol Mining - Japan trading house buys into US lithium producer.
Japanese trading house Itochu Corp said Monday it will buy a 20 percent stake in US lithium extraction startup Simbol Mining, winning exclusive rights to sell the precious metal in Asia.
The deal comes amid runaway demand from emerging markets for lightweight but costly lithium, a key energy storage medium used in rechargeable batteries powering portable consumer goods and electric vehicles.
Simbol Mining extracts lithium chemicals from geothermal brines in Southern California, a cheaper and cleaner alternative to the typical processing of the mineral, Itochu said in a statement.
While some lithium is mined, most is pumped up from brines in salt deserts in a lengthy and energy intensive process that sucks large amounts of local drinking water and damages the landscape.
Geothermal pumps do not endanger drinking water because brine comes from beneath the level of groundwater.
Most of the output comes from Argentina, Australia and Chile, which together accounted for 82 percent of total lithium production in 2008, according to Roskill Information Services, a metals and minerals research group.
Simbol Mining, founded in 2007, aims to produce 16,000 tonnes of lithium carbonates a year and increase production capacity in coming years.