Bolivia, with huge untapped reserves, gears up for soaring lithium demand
By Ana FERNANDEZ
Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia (AFP) Sept 15, 2019
Over 3,600 meters above sea level on the blinding white plain of the world's largest salt flat, landlocked Bolivia is dramatically ramping up production of lithium to cope with soaring global demand for the prized electric-battery metal.
Bolivia, among the poorest countries in South America, sits on one of the world's largest lithium reserves, at the Salar de Uyuni -- or Uyuni Salt Flats -- ready to take full advantage in the coming age of the electric car.
But while it sits at the apex of South America's "lithium triangle," along with Chile and Argentina, Bolivia has not had the capacity to produce the metal on a commercial scale.
That will change when its Llipi plant comes online in 2020.
The factory, guarded by the army because of the metal's value, will have an annual production capacity of 15,000 tons of lithium carbonate, project manager Marco Antonio Condoretty told AFP.
State company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB), established by the government of President Evo Morales in 2008 to exploit lithium in the salt flats, aims to make Bolivia the fourth-largest producer by 2021.
Morales, a leftist and former coca farmer, is counting on lithium to serve as the economic engine that lifts his country out of poverty.
- Joint ventures -
YLB teamed up last year with German company ACI Systems to help develop the Uyuni complex.
It's part of a plan to form strategic partnerships that "bring their technology and guarantee outlets," said Condoretty.
The joint venture will manufacture electric-vehicle batteries in Bolivia for the growing European market.
China's Xinjiang TBEA Group came on board with YLB in another joint venture in February to help extract lithium from Bolivia's two other salt flats, in Coipasa and Pastos Grandes.
Bolivia said earlier this year that Uyuni alone likely has at least 21 million metric tons of lithium, more than double previous estimates.
Until now, the Salar de Uyuni has been a major tourist attraction, and environmentalists have raised concerns about the landscape being irreparably altered by exploiting the lithium deposits underneath.
But Condoretty insisted that lithium exploitation would use "clean technologies" and affect only about three percent of the salt flat.
- Chinese demand -
China is the world's biggest consumer of lithium, with 63 percent of the market, according to Ingred Garces, professor of engineering at Chile's Antofagasta University.
With its voracious appetite for lithium, the Asian giant has positioned itself at the center of the world's main deposits of the metal.
By 2025, China will need 800,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles.
China's Tianqui Lithium Corp. took a 24 percent stake in Chilean producer SQM last December, placing itself inside the "Lithium Triangle," which has 80 percent of the globe's known deposits.
Worldwide production grew 23 percent in 2018 to more than 85,000 tons.
Australia is the world's biggest producer, with 51,000 tons annually, followed by Chile with 16,000 tons, China with 8,000 and Argentina with 6,200.
As recently as 2016, Bolivia produced only some 20 tons of lithium carbonate, according to the Lithium Today website.
Seeking moments of disorder
Santa Barbara CA (SPX) Sep 05, 2019
The future of technology relies, to a great extent, on new materials, but the work of developing those materials begins years before any specific application for them is known. Stephen Wilson, a professor of materials in UC Santa Barbara's College of Engineering, works in that "long before" realm, seeking to create new materials that exhibit desirable new states. In the paper "Field-tunable quantum disordered ground state in the triangular-lattice antiferromagnet NaYbO2," published in the journal ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.