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Thailand’s nascent EV industry could get a boost from the discovery of lithium resources

Thailand sees EVs as a potential growth industry, and the country’s government is soliciting investment from global manufacturers. In December, the Thai government announced that Toyota, Honda and two other Japanese automakers will invest a total of $4.22 billion to establish local production of EVs. As usual, the Chinese beat them to it—in January, Great Wall Motor began manufacturing EVs in Thailand.

Major lithium deposits in the country would be a plus for the EV industry. Thai officials recently reported the discovery of lithium deposits at two locations in the southern province of Phang Nga—the Ruangkiat and Bang Etu sites.

According to initial reports, the location was estimated to have deposits of 14.8 million tonnes of lithium—this would place Thailand third in the world in terms of known lithium deposits, behind Bolivia (21 million tonnes) and Argentina (20 million tonnes).

Subsequently, however, a government spokesperson clarified that the 14.8-million-tonne figure represents total mineral resources, not lithium resources. In fact, the sites contain lepidolite, which has an average lithium oxide content of 0.45%. That still translates to a hefty amount of Li—enough to produce a million 50 kWh battery packs, according to the spokesperson.

There may be another catch. Nikkei describes Phang Nga as “a region of exceptional scenic beauty.” (Among its wonders are the other-worldly islands seen in the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.) As the anti-EV legions never tire of reminding us, lithium mines can be hard on local landscapes—let’s hope the Thai authorities are wise enough to balance conservation with commerce.

Source: Nikkei via Green Car Congress

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