LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales on Monday inaugurated a Chinese-made pilot plant for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries.
The $3.7 million facility was built by LinYi Dake in La Palca, a town near the Uyuni Salt Flat, which holds the world’s largest reserves of lithium.
“If we in Bolivia have the greatest reserve of lithium, why not have the greatest lithium industry? This must be our goal and it is in our hands,” Morales said during the ceremony.
The Uyuni Salt Flat, a dried-up sea bed that covers more than 10,000 sq. kilometers (4,000 sq. miles), contains 100 million tons of lithium reserves, according to the Bolivian government, though the U.S. Geological Survey puts the figure at just 9 million tons.
Uyuni, located in the southwestern province of Potosi, is already home to a pilot plant to make lithium carbonate – the raw material for batteries.
“The immediate objective” of the facility opened Monday is “the training of Bolivian technicians and the understanding of the technology provided by the company LinYi Dake,” Corporacion Minera de Bolivia official Luis Alberto Echazu said.
Two Chinese experts will work with the 21 Bolivian operators for the first four months.
Once it is up and running, the plant will be capable of turning out 1,000 cellphone batteries per day, as well as 40 batteries for use in electric vehicles, Echazu said.