LA PAZ – The German companies K-UTEC and Ercosplan and Switzerland’s Seps Salt & Evaporation Plants Ltda are competing for a contract to design a lithium carbonate plant in Bolivia, the Andean nation’s government said.
The lithium carbonate produced at the plant is to be used in the manufacture of lithium-ion battery cathodes.
The companies’ bids were submitted early this week and will be evaluated over the next two or three weeks, the Mining Ministry’s National Management Committee for Evaporitic Resources said in a statement Tuesday.
Ercosplan offered to carry out the engineering work for approximately $3.1 million, while K-UTEC and Seps Salt each submitted a $4.8 million bid, according to official figures.
A lithium carbonate pilot plant was inaugurated in 2013 at the largely untapped Uyuni salt flats, which cover a 10,000-sq.-kilometer (3,860-sq.-mile) area of southwest Bolivia and are the largest known reserve of the world’s lightest metal.
President Evo Morales wants Bolivia’s lithium reserves to be processed and industrialized at home and says foreign partners only will be brought on board if they agree to build a lithium-ion battery plant and electric cars in the Andean nation.
The leftist head of state recently said Bolivia will invest $617 million through 2018 to develop its lithium industry, on top of the $115 million already invested through 2014.
A Chinese-built lithium-ion battery pilot plant - intended primarily for the training of Bolivian technicians - was inaugurated in February 2014.