Germany and Bolivia today sealed a partnership for the industrial use of lithium, a key component in the batteries that power electric cars and cell phones. ACI Systems will work with state-owned Bolivian Lithium Deposits (YLB) on installing four lithium plants in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats, which hold the world’s second-largest lithium deposit.
The joint venture also plans to build a factory for electric vehicle batteries in the country. While more than 80% of the lithium extracted will be exported to Germany, the company is said to be in talks with other European companies.
The partners expect to produce up to 40,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year, beginning in 2022, over a period of 70 years. President Evo Morales sees a prosperous future for the impoverished nation, pinning his hopes on the rapid rise in the global price of the so-called white petroleum.
Salt flats in the highlands of Bolivia are thought to hold millions of tonnes of untapped lithium reserves. According to the US Geological Survey, the Salar de Uyuni salt flats alone contain nine million tonnes of lithium, or around 25% of the world’s known reserves.
The country also holds other lithium deposits, and experts believe that Bolivia holds about half of the world’s lithium. But the South American nation faces an array of challenges before being able to develop a lithium industry.
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