Russia and China Look To Corner Bolivia’s Lithium Industry

“China controls 80 to 90 percent of global capacity.  This is an extremely dominant position for a country at a time when everyone is trying to expand.”

Bolivia has some of the largest deposits of lithium in the world, a mineral with civilian and military applications.  As reported by the UK-based news outlet BBC Spanish, Russia, which possesses deep experience in mining strategic minerals, is one of the major contenders to win a globally strategic contract to extract much of Bolivia’s lithium. China is another contender. According to U.S. Government international broadcaster Voz de America, China already controls 80 to 90 percent of global lithium mining capacity.  Voz de America reports that there is international concern that China will consolidate its position as the most important lithium mining power, given China’s past use of economic interdependence as a weapon.  Russian or Chinese dominance over the lithium industry risks producing another raw material dependence on authoritarian competitors.


“La carrera por los codiciados ‘minerales del future’ que pueden crear gigantescas fortunas e influir en la seguridad nacional de los países (The race for the coveted ‘minerals of the future’ that can create gigantic fortunes and influence the national security of countries),” BBC Spanish (Spanish-language version of the popular British news outlet), 21 April 2022.

Russia, one of the major exporters of gas and oil, demonstrated that due to the dependence of many countries on its exports, especially European ones, fuels are a weapon of war amid the harsh economic pressures that the U.S. and its allies have pursued in order to get the Kremlin to end the invasion of Ukraine… However, in the race for the metals that will play a crucial role in future economic development, Russia has its advantages: it is the world’s second largest exporter of cobalt, the second of platinum, and the third of nickel.

Source:  “Fuerte competencia por el litio de Latinoamérica para reducir dependencia de China (Strong competition for lithium from Latin America to reduce dependence on China),” Voz de America (U.S.-based, state-owned international broadcaster), 24 June 2022. 

The race for lithium has led manufacturers of electric vehicles to enter into contracts directly with mining companies to ensure the supply of lithium… China not only exploits lithium but also exercises a dominant position in the entire supply chain for the manufacture of electric car batteries.  Most of the battery manufacturing is in China.  China controls 80 to 90 percent of global capacity.  This is an extremely dominant position for a country at a time when everyone is trying to expand.