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Business trends

Australia lithium output set to soar as electric cars gather steam

Glut concerns loom as Chinese money drives a flurry of mine expansions

Australia's Pilbara region is best known for iron ore, but it is becoming increasingly important as a source of lithium.   © Reuters

SYDNEY -- Miners in Australia are ramping up output of the raw materials that underpin lithium, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries, with hefty backing from Chinese producers. Demand for the soft, silvery metal is expected to surge, but with so many lithium projects underway at once, some are warning that the industry is only a few years away from a supply glut.

The rocky outcrops of Western Australia's Pilbara region 1,500 km north of Perth are one of the few low-cost sources of lithium in the world -- apart from hard-rock spodumene mines in Australia, the other major source is lithium-rich brine deposits in the salt pans of South America.

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