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Chile's decision to open lithium mining to foreign companies sparks protests as popularity of iPads, hybrid cars causes demand to soar

Investors from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to BlackRock Inc. are trying to make money from the exploding popularity of iPads and increasing sales of hybrid cars by investing in producers of lithium for batteries.

Prices for the conductive metal, the lightest in the periodic table, have tripled since 2000 in a market now worth $1 billion a year as uses expand in vehicles, ceramics, electronics and lubricants. Apple Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp., maker of the Prius electric-gasoline car, have few alternatives as they pursue higher performance and mobility, leading Dahlman Rose & Co. analysts to forecast lithium demand will double by 2020.

-- Read the full story from Bloomberg's Jesse Riseborough.