LA PAZ (Reuters) – The new chief of Bolivia’s state-owned lithium company YLB plans strict limits on foreign investment in extraction and processing of the white metal key to electric vehicle batteries, he told Reuters in his first interview with international media since taking the reins this month.
Juan Carlos Zuleta, a lithium expert who has worked in Chile and Bolivia, said a deal with a German firm that was aborted last year would remained shelved, while another with a Chinese partner was being reassessed.
“It is important for the international community to know that Bolivian law says lithium should be extracted and processed by Bolivians,” he said in an hour-long interview at YLB’s headquarter in La Paz. “Now we are here to comply with the law.”
He was referring to a constitution put in place under former socialist leader Evo Morales, who resigned and fled the country in November after a disputed election and widespread protests.
Zuleta said Bolivia would not strike deals in the short-term allowing overseas firms with more advanced expertise to come in and help ramp up extraction. Instead he would look to strengthen local know-how and work with outside expert advisers.