Lithium Economics

Korea says that Bolivia is missing an opportunity to sell lithium *

Jul 26, 2016

As the lithium market starts to boom, Bolivia is lagging behind other lithium producing countries. Bolivian news agency Erbol picked up some recent comments by the Korean embassador in La Paz regarding this seemingly missing opportunity for Bolivia. They also reflected the opinions of Juan Carlos Zuleta regarding a revolutionary technology to extract and process lithium developed by Posco, a well-known Korean firm that due to an impasse with the Bolivian government in 2012 failed to implement a project to produce lithium cathodes directly from Uyuni brines.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 15:13

Korean ambassador in La Paz, Ton Chao Lin warned Monday that, due to delays in the process of industrialization of natural resources of the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia is missing the opportunity to enter the world lithium market.

Chao Lin visited Monday morning the president of the International Policy Committee of the Senate, Patricia Gomez, where he lamented the Korean failure to participate in the project to be developed in Uyuni.

"Unfortunately, our contracts have failed in the Salar de Uyuni, but I think we still have a chance to cooperate in this area. Korea has enough quality and advanced technology," he said.

He explained that the same company Posco that in March 2012 signed an agreement with Bolivia to build an experimental pilot plant for production of cathodes and then failed, is currently building a lithium plant in Salta, Argentina.

According to a newspaper article, published by the expert Juan Carlos Zuleta, Posco is aiming at shortening the construction period for its lithium plant in Argentina "by moving up the completion date to September this year from the initial target of the end-year."

Also, in response to the recent increase in demand for the white metal, it’s committed to the incredible goal of producing 40,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year in 2017. This figure can only make sense if we agree that Posco’s technology to extract and process lithium carbonate and obtain cathodes for lithium-ion batteries, developed in cooperation with the Research Institute of Industrial Science and Technology (RIST), is truly revolutionary.

"Right now you are sadly missing an opportunity, because now the price of lithium is high because cars need lithium battery, then you have to rush a little bit this project to produce lithium, which is very good for Bolivia," the Korean diplomat indicated.

Zuleta thinks that unfortunately, the contract with Bolivia never materialized due to an impasse between Bolivia and Posco. What happened was that as they were about to sign the agreement, "the Bolivian side demanded the exclusion of royalty payments for the use of Posco technology", and that the agreement was signed, "only after they agreed to include a royalty payment clause in a separate document ". Since the contract never came into force, it can be deduced that it was probably because Bolivia refused to sign the second document.

The lithium plant in Salta will be the first factory of commercial lithium of the company since it developed in 2010 its own extraction technology, which reduces production time.

Near the plant is Pozuelos Lagoon, a salt lake known to have a reserve of lithium close to 1.5 million tons. They estimate an average annual production of 2,500 tons of high purity lithium, which can be used to make rechargeable batteries.

*This news article was first published in Spanish by Erbol (See: http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia/economia/25072016/corea_dice_que_bolivia_pierde_opcion_para_vender_litio)

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