LA PAZ – Bolivia’s government has ruled out pursuing uranium production after consultations with German and French experts and decided to focus instead on the industrial development of its vast lithium reserves.
“The uranium industry is practically in recession because it generates lots of toxic waste” that is difficult to eliminate, the president of state-owned mining company Comibol, Marcelino Quispe, was quoted as saying by state-run news agency ABI.
Since the peaceful nuclear program envisioned by President Evo Morales’ administration does not require large quantities of uranium, the Andean nation will instead buy that metal from France, Canada and Australia.
The country’s last uranium mine closed in 1984, Quispe said.
In January, the Comibol chief announced plans for exploration work in four of Bolivia’s nine regions to confirm the existence of major veins of various minerals, including uranium.
Bolivia’s government is planning to build a nuclear research center in El Alto, a city near La Paz, part of a peaceful civilian nuclear power program announced by the Bolivian government in 2014 and supported by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.
Separately, President Evo Morales’ administration has unveiled a $925 million plan to develop the Uyuni Salt Flat, a dried-up sea bed in southwestern Bolivia that covers more than 10,000 sq. kilometers (4,000 sq. miles).
The salt flat 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.
The government’s plan includes construction of a plant to produce lithium carbonate, as well as facilities that will use that raw material to make lithium-ion batteries and other products.