TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's Mitsui & Co. Ltd. said Wednesday it has won exclusive rights from a Canadian firm to sell lithium in Asia to meet rising demand for lithium-ion batteries for eco-friendly products such as hybrid vehicles.
Mitsui will import 2,000 tons of lithium per year from Canada Lithium Corp. in 2013, the company said. The quantity of Mitsui's import is equal to around 80 percent of Japan's annual demand for lithium. Mitsui said it will sell lithium in China, Japan and South Korea.
Around 60 percent of lithium was produced in Latin America alone in 2008, according to Roskill Information Services, a British data provider on international metals and minerals markets. Lithium output in North America stood at just 4.5 percent last year, it said.
"The deal with Canada Lithium Corp. will help us diversify lithium supplies. We believe it will help us become a stable provider of lithium," the company said in a statement.
Most lithium-ion batteries in use, such as those in cell phones and laptop computers, require hours to recharge to full capacity, with the fastest ones requiring about half an hour to recharge.
Toyota Motor Corp.'s hybrid vehicles now use nickel-metal hydride batteries. Using a lithium-ion battery will produce more energy, allowing the car to use more electric power than gasoline. Toyota said last month it will use lithium-ion batteries for its plug-in hybrid cars.