Lithium Economics

Argentina wants a triple alliance to extract lithium *

May 11, 2014

In an interview with Los Tiempos, a prestigious Bolivian newspaper, Juan Carlos Zuleta comments on a recent proposal by Argentina´s Mining Minister to form a triple alliance with Chile and Bolivia to extract lithium.

Argentina´s mining minister, Jorge Mayoral, announced Thursday that his country has a tripartite strategic plan to extract lithium including Bolivia and Chile, according to the online edition of Catamarcas´s daily El Esquiú.

In Catamarca, during a lunch with businessmen and officials of the sector for the Mining Day, Mayoral said the plan will be submitted to the governments of Chile and Bolivia to develop regional economic policies around the lithium extraction.

He said that in the field of lithium, Argentina is "the most successful model of development where more projects add value," and that in this context, analyzing the subject as a whole, "85 percent of the reserves of lithium in the world are in the triangle that make up Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, so we present in association the political decision to return to country fraternity and form the tripartite constitution to give value to lithium carbonate."

In this respect, lithium economics analyst, Juan Carlos Zuleta, said yesterday that the proposal looks not very viable, at least in the short to medium term. It looks more like an "act of good will", Zuleta argued noting that there are regular channels for the Minister to make such a proposal.

Zuleta said that the interests of the three countries are dissimilar. On Chile, he said that this country only seeks a new energy strategy after the change of government; Argentina has problems emerging from foreign exchange controls, which constitutes an obstacle to operation of mining companies; and Bolivia is the most backward with 121.6 million dollars "spent" over six years on lithium projects to date with no visible results.

Barriers

Interviewed by Industrial Minerals magazine (United Kingdom), on April 28, 2014, Juan Carlos Zuleta analyst noted that the main obstacles in Latin America to develop lithium are the lack of water for the production of brines in Chile; foreign exchange controls for mining operations in Argentina; and general stagnation in terms of production in Bolivia. In contrast, he added, Australia and Canada are consolidating in the market. (See: http://www.indmin.com/Article/3334713/Lithium-in-Latin-America.html).

* This report was first published in Spanish on Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Bolivia (See: http://www.lostiempos.com/diario/actualidad/economia/20140510/argentina-quiere-triple-alianza-para-extraer-litio_254409_556618.html).

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