Andres Gaudin

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Historians agree that the pillaging of Bolivia's enormous mineral riches, since the 15th century Spanish colonial period, has been the determinant factor in the country's poverty and dependency. Bolivian President Evo Morales agrees with those assessments and says that what happened during the past five centuries with silver, gold, tin, antimony, bismuth, tungsten, copper, lead, zinc, gas, and iron, among other natural resources, will not happen this time with lithium. "We want to send a clear message to the industrialized countries and their businesses: all investments are welcome, but they should understand that we have learned from history and we will not repeat our old mistakes. Our raw materials will no longer be exported to be industrialized abroad, providing foreign jobs and taking jobs from Bolivians," said Morales. Bolivians believe that lithium is providing the last opportunity to stage the economic takeoff postponed for 500 years. The country has the world's largest proven lithium reserves—-between 50% and 70%, depending on the source of the information—-which experts consider vitally important for humanity's future because, besides having medicinal uses and being the raw material for manufacturing batteries and power cells that have a huge capacity to store energy, it could radically reduce dependence on increasingly limited fossil fuels.