Battery Makers’ Great Hope for Cheap Lithium Faces Talent Crunch – by Jonathan Gilbert (Bloomberg News – December 28, 2017)

In the global rush to supply the electric-car revolution, lithium hot spot Argentina is grappling with a shortage of talent. Battery makers are depending on the South American nation’s high-altitude salt flats as a key new supply of the metal, with vast deposits and an investor-friendly government luring prospectors and developers.

Under President Mauricio Macri, Argentina has ambitions to become a lithium superpower, supplying as much as 45 percent of the market, up from about 16 percent now.

Projects have faced unpredictable weather and financing struggles. But perhaps the biggest barrier to development is a dearth of skilled workers.

“In Argentina, everyone wants to be a lawyer or a doctor,” said Miguel Angel Persoglia, who has worked on copper and silver projects and now heads the pilot operations at Minera Exar SA, a joint venture between Lithium Americas Corp. and Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA. “There’s no technical personnel” for lithium.

The shortage of local expertise can be seen as a growing pain in a new industry, and one that’s being exacerbated by competition from other sectors, like shale gas, as deregulation under Macri helps jump-start the economy.

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