China has emerged as the leading market player for electric and hybrid cars, accounting for approximately half of global sales. And with the world's second-largest economy keen to develop the industry within its own borders, Beijing is looking to import a lot more lithium.
"Lithium is coming of age in a big way. It's the core ingredient to 99 percent of electric vehicles and as a result, demand is going through the roof," Simon Moores, managing director at research and data provider at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, told CNBC in a phone interview.
As demand for electric vehicles skyrockets, Chinese firms have rapidly been making deals in a bid to secure supplies of lithium — a vital component used in batteries for electric vehicles.
Demand for lithium had been "bubbling under the surface" for several years, Moores said, before a renewed interest in electric cars about 18 months ago triggered a "desperate" global pursuit.