The Cauchari-Olaroz lithium mine in Argentina is jointly owned by Canada’s Lithium Americas and China’s Ganfeng Lithium. Chinese mining companies have gained control over critical mineral mines around the world, including lithium mines. They have also invested in “junior mining companies” and entered into joint ventures with Western and local companies. South America’s Lithium Triangle, encompassing Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, has seen numerous multinational partnerships between Chinese and Western companies. However, as countries seek to decouple or de-risk their supply chains from China, these partnerships may not last long. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerability of Western countries’ supply chains to China, leading to efforts to break dependence on China in industries vital to national security. The European Union, Japan, and South Korea are notably absent from the South American lithium industry, giving China a strategic advantage in the electric vehicle transition. However, other players may emerge, such as the United States with its recent lithium discoveries. Local governments are also pushing for domestic refining and processing of lithium to create jobs and value for their countries. The automotive and tech giants are expected to get more involved in the lithium industry in the coming years.
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