Although Chile is the largest lithium producer in the world right now, Bolivia is gearing up to contest that crown. The country has huge lithium reserves and has just installed its first lithium processing plant to turn these reserves into a revenue stream. The amount of lithium reserves Bolivia has, the country can become the ‘Saudi Arabia’ for lithium.
The pilot plant for processing lithium has been installed right at the edge of the salty desert which is said to contain sizable lithium reserves. Speaking at the inaugration of the plant, President Evo Morales said, “These are important steps. And of course, they must be expanded… From a laboratory we have passed onto a pilot plant and now we have to leap towards the big industry.”
Morales has shown a certain commitment in recent years to ensure that the riches of the country stay within it. It is to this end that this processing plant has been installed so as to enable the country in becoming self-sufficient in the production of lithium.
The experts overlooking the project claim that the plant can immediately start producing up to 5,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate annually. This amount, they say, will become 30,000 tonnes by 2016. However, there are a lot of challenges along the way.
For a start, the country needs $800 million to develop a mine and start extracting lithium, the processing costs being another challenge. Bolivia is currently in talks with a number of groups, including the likes of LG and Mitsubishi, to furnish the required financing. But so far, the talks have proved futile.
Moreover, the neighboring country of Chile is already leading in lithium-production and boasts the best quality lithium deposits. The big question for Bolivia right now is where to get the money to kickstart the rather ambitious project. Once the project starts, though, it may position Bolivia among the leading lithium producers and bring huge revenue into the country.
Source: Friday Times