LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivia has chosen a Chinese consortium to be its strategic partner on new $2.3 billion lithium projects, the government said on Wednesday, giving China a potential foothold in the country’s huge untapped reserves of the prized electric battery metal.
China’s Xinjiang TBEA Group Co Ltd will hold a 49 percent stake in a planned joint venture with Bolivia’s state lithium company YLB, the Bolivian firm said. Together, the companies will seek to produce lithium and other materials from the Coipasa and Pastos Grandes salt flats.
Bolivia estimates that development of the projects will cost at least $2.3 billion. The Chinese firm will provide initial investment and YLB will pay its share with future lithium production, YLB’s executive manager Juan Carlos Montenegro said by phone.
Bolivia has some of the world’s largest reserves of lithium – a key component in batteries that power electric cars – but has yet to produce the metal at a commercial scale.
The preliminary deal gives Beijing a fresh chance at locking in access to Bolivia’s lithium after German firm ACI Systems GmbH was chosen last year as partner on the country’s largest lithium deposit in the salt flats of Uyuni.