LA PAZ – A delegation from Chinese firm Citic Guoan has submitted Bolivia’s Mining Ministry a proposal for developing lithium reserves in the Uyuni Salt Flats.
Minister Jose Pimentel told reporters after meeting with Citic representatives that the plan was “comprehensive” but he did not offer any details.
“We’ll analyze their proposal but saw the visit as quite auspicious ... It’s comprehensive and there’s a good pre-disposition” on the part of the Chinese, Pimentel said of his meeting with the delegation, in which Chinese Ambassador to La Paz, Qu Shengwu also participated.
Pimentel said the Chinese delegation was in Bolivia for a week analyzing their investment proposal for Uyuni.
They met with ministry officials and representatives of Comibol, the state agency for mining projects, and visited a pilot plant to process lithium carbonate – the main component in rechargeable batteries that power electronic devices – on a small scale.
Later plans include building a bigger commercial plant before embarking on an industrialization stage beginning in 2013 that will involve the eventual manufacture of lithium car batteries and even battery-powered cars.
The minister said the government has made known “the national policies and conditions under which they could participate” and now will have to analyze the proposal that Citic submitted.
Korea’s LG Group, Japan’s Sumitomo and Mitsubishi and France’s Bollore also have expressed interest in partnering with Bolivia on lithium projects in Uyuni, which comprises over 12,000 sq. km. (4,630 sq. mi.) in the southwestern province of Potosi and is located at an elevation of 3,653 meters (just under 12,000 feet).
The Bolivian government says the Uyuni salt flats hold roughly 19 million tons of the world’s lightest metal, which would make it the world’s largest lithium reserve. EFE