LA PAZ – The government wants to mine for its own account and without partners the lithium in Salar de Uyuni in southern Bolivia, in which several Japanese companies, as well as a French one and a South Korean one, have shown interest, the La Razon newspaper reported Sunday.
Bolivia wants to exploit the resource in a sovereign manner, using its own technology and its own resources, the head of Bolivia’s mining agency, Freddy Beltran, told the newspaper.
“In reality, what the state wants is to have the industrial plant for lithium carbonate with its own resources. It doesn’t matter that we may have to seek financial support with a bank or some other entity,” Beltran said.
Beltran, however, acknowledged that Bolivia needs partners to provide the technological equipment necessary for the industrialization of the metal.
“We need the technology to manufacture batteries and we are light years behind in that. That’s why we need a partner,” the mining official said.
Bolivian lithium is found in Salar de Uyuni, a 10,000 square kilometer (3,844 sq. mile) area in the Andean Potosi region, down to about 220 meters (715 feet) below ground.
In this huge salt desert are the world’s best reserves of lithium, a metal necessary for making batteries for electric vehicles.
The Bolivian state built in Uyuni a small pilot plant to produce lithium carbonate in small quantities, with the aim of getting experience in the industry so that it could later enter a phase of industrializing the metal.
France’s Bollore and South Korea’s LG have expressed their interest in exploiting the metal, along with Japan’s Sumitomo and Mitsubishi, who are investigating different areas in which to mine lithium.
President Evo Morales has said on several occasions that he will not grant a lithium monopoly to any firm and that he will demand that the state have a majority participation in the income from the business.