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Morales after European partners for mining projects

Wednesday, February 18th 2009 - 20:00 UTC
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French conglomerate Bollore plans to submit a plan to develop Bolivia's Lake Uyuni lithium deposit one of the world's largest said a spokesman for Bolivian President Evo Morales who is currently visiting France.

Besides Bollore, South Korea's LG Group and Japan's Mitsubishi and Sumitomo are in a race for the Uyuni's lithium riches. Bolivia has anticipated that says the winner will be the company that presents a viable plan to develop a full-fledged lithium industry in the country. "We've agreed that the company will make a proposal to the Bolivian government regarding research, (lithium) production and even the manufacturing of cars in our country," presidential spokesman Ivan Canelas told the state-run television network in a phone interview from France. Canelas, accompanying leftist Morales since Saturday in a trip to Russia and France, said the government would only allow foreign firms to extract lithium from Uyuni if they agree to set up a lithium industry to produce batteries "and even cars" in the impoverished South American country. According to the US Geological Survey half of the world's lithium reserves are in Bolivia and the largest deposit in the country is at Uyuni, the world's biggest salt lake. Rechargeable lithium batteries are used to power laptops, hybrid vehicles and cell phones, and demand is seen rocketing if car makers develop electric cars on a major scale. Bollore has developed a lithium battery that can power an electric car at a speed of up to 125 km/hr with a range of 250 kilometres, and it has a joint venture with Italian car-maker Pininfarina for the production of electric cars. Canelas said that President Morales was given the opportunity to drive Bollore's Bluecar, a bubble-shaped prototype fitted with the company's lithium battery. President Morales on Tuesday arrived in Paris from Russia where he agreed to closer cooperation in the areas of energy, defence, drug combat and mining. One of the projects Russia will help Bolivia with is the construction a network of gas pipelines in the country and to neighbouring countries. Moscow will also supply Bolivia with helicopters to help fight drugs. President Morales called his visit to Moscow a "historic occasion" and praised Russia's return to Latinamerica. "Russia's return is very important". It was the first visit by a Bolivian head of state to Russia. Morales and President Dmitry Medvedev signed a declaration emphasizing their similar positions on global issues and opposition to US policies including the decades' old embargo on Cuba, plans for a missile shield in Europe and NATO expansion President Medvedev last November met Morales in La Paz as part of a regional tour which included Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Cuba. Since taking office and honouring electoral promises Mr. Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, has nationalized most energy and mining resources, but has also suffered a serious contraction in investments and has been forced to look for other partners.

Categories: Investments, Latin America.

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