Lithium - the new "white petroleum" - from high, dry salt flats in three Andes Mountains regions of South America is "irreplaceable" in manufacturing rechargeable batteries for smartphones and electric cars -- and Philadelphia-based pesticide and industrial-materials maker FMC Corp. is among the companies ready to exploit the rapid increase in lithium demand, Rosalba O'Brien and Rod Nickel report for Reuters here.

FMC Corp., whose high-rise headquarters is nearing completion in West Philadelphia, is "the company perhaps best set to benefit" from liberal foreign-mining investment policies under Argentina's new pro-business government, according to Reuters.

"FMC is already producing lithium from the Salar de Hombre Muerto" (Dead Man's Salt Lake) "in northern Argentina. Lithium provides a small but growing part of FMC's revenues, with forecast sales of around $250 million this year."

Across the mountains, pro-business Chile, which has friendly trade ties with Philadelphia, has been shaking up its own mining sector under its current left-leaning government, raising hopes for foreign mining investors -- though it's also increased taxes on local producers, Reuters adds.

Bolivia has more lithium, but it's located in places that are harder to mine, and not as well served by the national highway network; that nation has a tradition of skepticism toward foreign investment, so the resource won't be developed as quickly, Reuters concludes.