Major Japanese trading companies are increasing investments in lithium mining projects overseas as the resource-limited country strives for a stable supply of a mineral that's critical for producing batteries for electric vehicles.

Japan’s largest trading company, Mitsubishi Corp., said last month that it would set up a new joint venture with Canada’s Frontier Lithium to develop a lithium mining project in the province of Ontario. The project is expected to run more than 20 years and produce roughly 20,000 tons of lithium carbonate — enough to produce batteries for about 300,000 electric vehicles — every year.

Mitsubishi will acquire a 7.5% stake in the joint venture for 25 million Canadian dollars (¥2.8 billion) as part of its first-ever investment in a lithium mine. The funding will primarily be used to conduct the project’s feasibility study and prepare for obtaining permits required for construction, the firm said in a statement on March 5.