LIMA – Peru’s government is exercising caution after mining company Macusani Yellowcake announced in July that it had discovered the world’s largest lithium deposit, the energy and mines minister said Thursday.
The company, a unit of Canada’s Plateau Energy Metals, estimated that the deposit in Peru’s Altiplano region holds at least 2.5 million tons of lithium (more than the reserves of Bolivia and Chile) and 124 million pounds of uranium, Francisco Ismodes said.
“We have to treat it with caution,” Ismodes said at a press conference in Lima.
Though acknowledging the importance of the announcement, he said Peru’s lithium is mixed with rock and thus its characteristics are different from the reserves of that light and soft metal that are found in Bolivia.
Ismodes said the Peruvian government had only had preliminary meetings thus far with the mining company that carried out the exploration work in the country’s southeastern Puno region, near the border with Bolivia, and acknowledged that the government needed to gather more information.
Since the so-called Falchani deposit also contains uranium, the Energy and Mines Ministry is working on a bill for the development of that radioactive element and plans to introduce it before year’s end.
Peru currently has no regulations governing uranium development.
Ismodes also guaranteed that no project would be launched to develop the lithium deposit without taking into account protected cultural or landscape heritage sites.
Plateau Energy Metals’ chief operating officer, Laurence Stefan, said initially that annual production of lithium rocks at the Falchani deposit could total between 5-6 million tons, allowing the company to obtain 50,000 to 60,000 tons of lithium carbonate.
Strong demand is expected in the future for lithium-ion batteries, which power a wide range of electrical and electronic devices, including electric vehicles, mobile phones and laptop computers.