Toyota to Join Lithium Project in Argentina

Toyota becomes the first Japanese firm to acquire rights to extract lithium.

A Toyota Motor trading company said on Jan. 20 that it would join a project to tap lithium deposits in Argentina, securing supplies for the auto giant's hybrid and electric cars.

Toyota Tsusho Corp. said it would team up with Australia's Orocobre Ltd. to develop the project in the Salar de Olaroz salt lake in northwestern Argentina, becoming the first Japanese firm to acquire rights to extract lithium.

The company, the sole trading company of the Toyota group, wants to start tapping the deposits from 2012.

The deal comes as Toyota prepares to ramp up production of hybrid vehicles, which use lithium batteries, to meet the robust global demand for environmentally sound vehicles.

Major economies are vying to secure rare metal resources for production of lithium batteries for use in cars as well as electronics such as cellphones, computers and music players.

Toyota Tsusho will pay $4.5 million to fund a feasibility study and other projects before the actual development, with a view to taking a 25% interest in the joint venture in the future, Orocobre said.

The deal would allow the Australian mining company to link up with Toyota Motor as well as its partners such as electronics giants Panasonic and Sanyo, Orocobre managing director Richard Seville said.

"These companies have significant expertise and understanding of supply requirements," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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