Bolivia: will the ousting of Morales open lithium to foreign investment? – by Heidi Vella (Mining Technology – February 20, 2020)

Making up one third of the so-called ‘lithium triangle’, the Andean nation of Bolivia is estimated to have around nine million metric tons of lithium – the largest accumulation in the world, according to the US Geological Survey.

Due to the expected exponential growth in demand for battery technology in recent years, of which lithium is a component, interest in Bolivia’s untapped reserves has skyrocketed. However, unlike neighbouring countries Argentina and Chile, which both have lithium mines in production, efforts to develop these resources have so far amounted to little.

The now exiled former President, Evo Morales, who was a keen proponent of resource nationalism, had tried to kick-start a local lithium industry via a state-owned company and joint partnerships with foreign firms, but he faced public opposition and lack of local expertise.

Now he is exiled and elections are planned for May, many are asking whether political stability can be returned to the land-locked South American state and, if so, what approach might Morales’ successor take to exploiting the country’s lithium riches?.

Deals with Germany and China

Bolivia’s abundant lithium reserves are mostly located within the country’s spectacular salt flats, called the Salar de Uyuni. The area, which is popular with tourists, is home to the largest salt flats in the world.

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