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Lithium surges in price as cars go electric

Bolivia's Uyuni Salt Flat is a major lithium extraction site.

TOKYO -- Lithium prices have tripled in the course of a year amid ballooning global demand for eco-car batteries, which is compounding a supply shortage that could last for another few years.

China is the world's largest consumer of the rare metal, accounting for about 40% of global demand. As such, its market has become an international benchmark for prices. A ton of lithium went for around 129,000 yuan ($19,300) on the Chinese spot market in mid-July, slightly less than in early spring but still around three times the year-earlier price.

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