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Last Updated:[05-08-2009 06:41:33 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

Bolivia Begins Estimation on Its Lithium Reserves

tradenews According to sources, the State-owned Corporacion Minera de Bolivia has begun work on determining the amount of lithium that lies beneath Salar de Uyuni - the largest salt flat in the world, and one that perhaps redefine Bolivia's future economic growth. The mining site, the most backward region of Bolivia, is expected to begin producing basic compounds of lithium, which is used for making batteries of cell phones, power tools, laptops and electric vehicles, by the year end.

Lithium is the lightest metal and the least-dense solid, and Bolivia is believed to be sitting on half of world’s lithium reserves. It is largely found beneath salt flats, and a large portion of the world's supplies come from Chile, China and Argentina.

Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy aims to make Bolivia the largest producer of lithium batteries by 2015. France’s Bollore, Japan’s Mitsubishi and Sumitomo and South Korean conglomerate LG have all expressed interest in using Bolivia’s lithium for batteries to power electric cars and electronic items.

The mining ministry informed that the exploratory drilling would be carried out at six different locations at a cost of about $160,000. The prospecting results would be released by the end of this year, the ministry added. An earlier study by the US Geological Survey had suggested that Uyuni held 5.5mn tons of this rare metal.

Experts expressed doubts over as to how the Bolivian government would raise funds to develop the required infrastructure for lithium mining and production. However, it is understood that the Evo Morales administration is in talks with China and Chile, largest lithium producers, to address this problem.

Bolivia’s leftist government does not want a repetition of centuries’ old plundering of its natural resources without profits being staying in its country. The same government that had imposed state control over estimated 48 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2006 also wants to extend a similar model in profit sharing with foreign companies that would allow it to keep 60 percent of lithium profits.

Lithium is sold at around $650/kg, and the price and demand is estimated to rise manifold in few years from now. Morales administration hopes the rising demand of lithium would force foreign players to settle for the current profit sharing formula of the government.

By Jose Roy

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