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Chile, which has been called the Saudi Arabia of lithium, is the world’s leading producer of the lightest metal on the periodic table. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Salar de Atacama salt flat contains 29 percent of the world’s reserve of the metal. Pictured are giant brine pools and processing areas at the Soquimich lithium mine there. Lithium’s value has exploded as its use in batteries that power electronics and now electric vehicles has caused demand to skyrocket.
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Willie Jones is an associate editor at IEEE Spectrum. In addition to editing and planning daily coverage, he manages several of Spectrum's newsletters and contributes regularly to the monthly Big Picture section that appears in the print edition.