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The Arce administration agrees with Chinese and Russian companies on the implementation of Direct Lithium Extraction technology in two salt flats.
On Thursday, Bolivian President Luis Arce signed agreements with China's Citic Guoan and Russia's Uranium One Group for the application of their Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technologies in two salt flats, with a total investment of US$1.4 billion.
These agreements add to the one signed in January with the Chinese consortium CATL BRUNP & CMOC (CBC). President Arce pointed out that Bolivia has signed deals for the industrialization of lithium worth US$2.8 billion in the first half of 2023.
He said the signing of these agreements is of "singular importance" as it demonstrates that the Bolivian economy "cannot depend on a single product," referring to natural gas, which was the basis of national economic growth until a few years ago.
Arce also emphasized that four companies will operate in the Bolivian salt flats, including three foreign companies and the state-owned Bolivian Lithium Deposits (YLB). He highlighted that the national reserve allows for "many more firms."
Hydrocarbons and Energy Minister Franklin Molina recalled that the selection process for DLE technology began in 2021 and that the first step was the CBC agreement.
This “drills” are around the world. Here in Peru our congress gave authorization for US military to enter the country with weapons. It was in the news a couple of days ago. https://t.co/opiLEY5tHz
Molina emphasized that the second "crucial" step was the signing of agreements with Citic Guoan, a leader in DLE technology with battery and electric vehicle manufacturing, and with Uranium One Group, which has 70 years of experience in lithium processing and battery manufacturing as well.
The agreements include the construction of two DLE processing plants in the areas of Pastos Grandes and Uyuni Norte, both located in the Potosi region, where a minimum of 45,000 tons of lithium will be produced annually.
Through these agreements, the Arce administration aims to produce around 100,000 tons of lithium carbonate by 2025. Bolivia possesses estimated lithium reserves of 21 million tons, distributed in Uyuni, Pastos Grandes, and Coipasa.
Currently, this Andean country has a potassium chloride industrialization plant, a lithium carbonate pilot plant, and another plant under construction for lithium industrialization.
These facilities will be able to produce up to 25,000 tons per year of battery-grade lithium carbonate with 99.5 percent purity, employing semi-industrial and industrial processes in the evaporitic chain.
The Arce administration also seeks to coordinate with Chile, Argentina, and Peru to enhance regional development through the utilization of lithium.