German chancellor Olaf Scholz flew to Latin America this week looking for one thing: lithium. Meeting with the leaders of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil — home to the so-called lithium triangle — the leader of Europe’s largest economy attempted to negotiate a foothold in some of the world’s largest reserves of the sought-after metal, which he considers essential for his country’s clean energy revolution.

China has recently pursued a similar strategy of influence in the region, spending aggressively on lithium contracts in those same three countries in order to keep up with surging demand in its own manufacturing sector.

But these days leaders of the world’s most powerful countries, and leaders of the world’s most powerful corporations, are running up against a new resistance in Latin America, which is keenly aware of the value of its lithium reserves.

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