A new agreement between Bolivia's state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) and the Chinese consortium CATL, BRUNP & CMOC (CBC) was signed Thursday to install a lithium carbonate pilot plant with Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology in the Uyuni salt flat and would have a production of 2,500 tons per year after an investment worth US$ 90 million.
It was the second deal between YLB and CBC after the one signed on Jan. 20, 2023, for US$1.4 billion to install two EDL industrial plants with a combined capacity of 25,000 tons per year.
YLB President Karla Calderón pointed out that the new agreement differed from the previous one in that it is to test whether ”the technology that is being offered by the company (CBC) to make sure that Bolivia was opting for one of the best technologies to continue to an industrial stage. The South American country needs to know that this industrial plant can be implemented, Calderón explained as opposition lawmakers have questioned the fact that none of the agreements signed to date worth US$ 3.34 billion have been made public.
Congressman José Guillermo Benavides said that the announcements are propaganda and accused the government of experimenting with Chinese companies while handing over Bolivian resources to the Chinese without knowing if the technology works.
His fellow opposition Congressman Juan José Tórrez pointed out that first there were announcements of the installation of four industrialization plants worth 2.8 billion to produce 100 thousand tons of lithium, but now they are talking about the fact that we are in the pilot phase; they are carrying it as something secret. He also explained that agreements were signed because contracts require the approval of the Legislative Branch.
On the other hand, pro-government lawmaker Elsa Alí praised these agreements and insisted they were beneficial for her country. She admitted, though, that there was a lack of communication.”
A briefing from Calderón is scheduled for Feb. 21, it was also explained.