Progress in Lithium Industrialization
The executive president of Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB), Karla Calderón, discussed significant advancements in Bolivia’s lithium industry, including the initiation of a three-phase project for lithium production. The project, which began with a pilot plant capable of producing 1,000 tons of lithium, aims to eventually produce around 14,000 tons with a total investment of approximately US$ 450 million.
International Interest and Agreements
Calderón mentioned growing interest from Asian and European Union countries in Bolivia’s lithium production. Notably, agreements have been signed with Chinese companies and Uranium One Group for the Pastos Grandes salt flat project.
Differences in Agreements and Operational Models
The agreement with the Russian company Uranium One Group is structured to facilitate immediate construction, thanks to available geological information. This approach is expected to expedite reaching production scale. The Chinese company continues its involvement, with negotiations in progress for the construction phase.
Lithium Production and Market Conditions
Bolivia currently has a plant with a capacity of 1,000 tons, which is being expanded to 2,000 tons. However, fluctuations in lithium carbonate prices, from a high of around $75,000 per ton to approximately $15,000, have impacted revenue projections.
Projected Lithium Production Capacity
Next year, Bolivia’s annual lithium production capacity is expected to reach approximately 3,000 to 4,000 tons. Additionally, a 15,000-ton plant is slated to start production soon.
Lithium’s Role Compared to Gas
While lithium generates foreign currency, it cannot replace the role of gas in the economy. Lithium generates lower royalties compared to the gas industry, and the government is analyzing a new lithium law to address these disparities and attract investment.
New Lithium Law and Investment Attraction
The new lithium law under consideration aims to balance generating resources and attracting investment. It recognizes the need for financial and technological capital in the lithium industry and seeks to avoid overburdening projects with high government takes.