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Bolivia signs lithium production deals with Russian, Chinese companies

Friday, June 30th 2023 - 10:32 UTC
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Arce also underlined that Bolivia continues to be the country with the largest certified lithium reserves on the planet Arce also underlined that Bolivia continues to be the country with the largest certified lithium reserves on the planet

Bolivia's state-owned company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) Thursday signed two separate agreements whereby Chinese and Russian companies will invest over US$1.4 billion to build two industrial complexes for the production of lithium carbonate, it was reported in La Paz.

China's Citic Guoan and Russia's Uranium One Group — both with a major government stake — will partner with YLB to build two lithium carbonate processing plants, President Luis Arce announced.

“Today we are consolidating the industrializing process of our country. In January we had signed an agreement with the CBC company for 1.4 billion dollars of investment, and now also, between the two companies, we have an agreement with each of them to total another 1.4 billion,” said Arce.

“Between January and June of this year, Bolivia is already signing agreements for US$ 2.8 billion for the industrialization of lithium,” he added.

The companies will carry out the necessary activities to implement an industrial plant and produce lithium carbonate, battery grade at 99.5% purity, in addition to industrialization processes with patented Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology, it was explained.

Each complex will produce up to 25,000 metric tons per year of lithium carbonate, which is in great demand worldwide for the manufacture of electric batteries.

Both Uranium One Group and Citic Guoan were part of the EDL technology selection process, which lasted almost two years, through an international call for bids launched by the Bolivian government.

Both technologies demonstrated that they apply to the characteristics of the two salt flats, with a lithium recovery rate of over 80%. A statement from the Bolivian subsidiary of the Russian firm emphasizes that it “has more than 80 years of experience in lithium processing.”

“The Russian company has accumulated competencies in all stages of the technological chain, from the extraction of raw materials to the production of energy storage devices. It is ready to share these competencies in order to fully assist Bolivia in the creation of a national lithium industry with a full production cycle,” the firm stressed.

Other agreements signed in the past include the one with the Chinese consortium Catl Brunp & Cmoc (CBC) from January this year, for the installation of two industrial complexes. Uranium One Group and Citic Guoan will operate in the Uyuni and Pastos salt flats, both in the department of Potosí.

At the signing of Thursday's agreements, Arce also underlined that Bolivia continues to be the country with the largest certified lithium reserves on the planet, so its industrialization was necessary since the world was advancing “by leaps and bounds” in the transformation of energy technology.

YLB President Carlos Ramos signed the agreements on behalf of the South American company. The construction of the new plants will begin in about three months. China and Russia are among Bolivia's main lithium buyers. Lithium is mostly mined in Australia and South America.

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