Bolivian lithium mountains: where can Russia get a strategic resource

Bolivia, one of the poorest countries, ranks second in the world in mineral reserves needed for electric vehicles. Manufacturers of electronics and car batteries need the lithium “mountains” located here. Its largest reserves are concentrated on the territory of the dried salt lake Uyuni, located in the south of the country.



Soil loading with lithium, Uyuni, Bolivia


From above, this vast area appears so white that it is mistaken for a gigantic snow plain. Salt crystallizes in the dry season, forming millions of tile hexagons that occupy an area larger than Connecticut.

The Bolivian government seeks to exploit global hunger for lithium. Its ultimate goal is to turn the country into one of the main manufacturers of batteries, without which the rapidly growing fleet of electric vehicles will not do.

Bolivia will become an important player in the global lithium market within four or five years. And we do not plan to dwell on this

- said Juan Carlos Motenegro, head of the state-owned company YLB.


"Mountains" of lithium, Uyuni, Bolivia


Initially, the authorities sought to establish production on their own. However, as a result, only 250 tons of lithium carbonate were released this year. At the same time, according to the adopted plans, it is planned to increase production to 150 thousand tons within five years, which, according to forecasts, will amount to about 20% of the global volume.

Currently, lithium is mined mainly in Australia, Chile and Argentina. Bolivia has about 9 million tons of reserves that have never been mined on a commercial scale. Western investors are frightened by the position of authorities who intend to see a "lithium Toyota made in Bolivia."


Evaporative Pools in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile


President Evo Morales nationalized hydrocarbons, the main source of income, as well as electricity and telecommunications. He promised "to carry out industrialization with dignity and sovereignty." According to him, “raw” lithium will not be used by foreign corporations; instead, it will be recycled by state-controlled enterprises in Bolivia and here converted into batteries.

Bolivia openly poses a risk compared to other parts of the world for investment in lithium

- believes Chris Berry, an analyst and founder of the research firm House Mountain Partners LLC.


Uyuni, Bolivia


Perhaps this explains the active contacts with the Russian leadership. Investments from the Russian Federation amid demanding Western investors are stable, with soft lending conditions, and taking into account national interests. In June, Morales met in Moscow with his colleague Vladimir Putin. Then a negotiation process was launched regarding Russia's participation in the development of lithium deposits.

Gazprom is not the only company that shows interest in working in your country. There is interest in the field of electric power, engineering, and in some high-tech sectors.

- Putin said following a meeting held on November 23.

If the parties manage to agree, then Russia can get a reliable supplier of both lithium and its products. Moreover, the innovative industry, the development of which the Russian authorities are actively involved, cannot do without it.
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  1. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) 5 December 2018 08: 48
    +1
    No matter how it happened, as always, as with Rusnano ...