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Toyota To Supply Raw Lithium Through A Green Extraction Process



07/03/2015

Toyota Tsusho has taken the first initiative to supply raw lithium in an environmental friendly manner which would match the market demand, so that the next-gen technologies can be developed.


Dailycsr.com – 03 July 2015 – Toyota Tsusho has taken an initiative to establish itself as a “new supplier” of lithium, knowing that currently the said market is under the oligopoly of “four companies from South America and Australia”, whereby these companies control the production of lithium on a global scale.
 
In the present world of technology, wherein lithium batteries form the base of powering almost all battery operated devices, like mobile phone being one of the indispensible devices of the modern world, Toyota has become the first company to develop the raw lithium, keeping the worldwide demand in mind.  
 
In fact, nowadays “lithium-ion batteries” are also used for plugging in P.H. vehicles and electric vehicles. Nevertheless, lithium proves to be a “rare metal” which is needed in the form of raw-material to generate “the positive electrode of lithium-ion batteries” besides its other “application” in the business sector. As mentioned earlier, the controlled production of global lithium, accentuates its demand; although in order to ensure the further development of “next-generation” vehicles, new suppliers of raw lithium metal need to join the market.
 
Consequently, Toyota began a study in the year of 2008, whereby the company hoped to find a solution to growing “market need” for lithium. Following the results of the study, Toyota, conducted a “capacity assessment survey” for mining. Moreover, with the help of JOGMEC, the company of Toyota also carried out an “infrastrcture surveys”.
 
Based on a study of the worldwide availability of lithium, the company concentrated “on Argentina's Salar de Olaroz”, whereby the salt water lake is rich in “lithium content”. Moreover, the necessary transport system and the infrastructure to harvest the raw lithium was readily available. Toyota Tsusho reports that:
“In 2010, we began feasibility studies with the lake's mining rights owners, Australian company Orocobre Limited. A pilot plant was built in 2011, followed by the establishment of a joint venture and start of construction on a commercial plant in December 2012.”
 
In order to shorten the production process, Toyota directly “extracts” lithium from the lake. During the manufacturing stage, the raw materials thus harvested are purified into “high-grade lithium” with the help of “an ion exchange resin”. Interestingly, the by-products of the extraction process, gets turned into fertilizers. Environmentally conscious Toyota even collects the concentrated brine, which remains after an extraction of lithium, into various ponds which will be covered by earth after the completion of the project. Thanks to the full proof environmental precautions, the project was not rejected by the “local community”.
 
In fact, the company of Toyota had informed that the –
“Annual production capacity will be 17,500 tons, which is equivalent to the current annual demand in Japan.”
 
Besides being an environmental friendly quest, the project has created “employment” opportunity for the local residents of “Olaroz Chico” town. Moreover, it has also been an educational venture wherein employees were supported “through the use of computers and other equipment”. 


References:
http://www.toyota-tsusho.com/english/about/project/03/