Bolivian President Evo Morales has signed an agreement with China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) to explore lithium reserves in the Salar de Coipasa (Coipasa salt flats).
“China is such a big country, so highly developed and industrialized” that it is of growing importance to Bolivia, Morales said at a news conference this week in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia.
If the lithium deposit meet’s CITC’s criteria, the company will submit a proposal to establish a joint venture for lithium extraction, CITIC Guoan Information Industry Co Ltd has announced.
The manager of Empresa Boliviana de Recursos Evaporiticos (EBRE), Luis Albertino Echazu, told official Bolivian state news agency ABI that CITIC’s study will quantify reserves in Coipasa. He added that CITIC will pay for the study and if the result is negative, the Bolivian government will have no further obligations in the deal.
However, if the CITIC study is positive, the Chinese company will submit a plan for development for lithium production from the salt flats. China will also establish a trade representative office in the city of La Paz, as well as establish offices in the department of the Altiplánico de Oruro and at Coipasa.
In the salt flats of Coipasa Andes, Bolivia is believed to have a resource of 100 million metric tons of lithium, the world’s largest estimated lithium resources in the world. Bolivia hopes to exploit this resource as the market for lithium batteries increases, particularly in the auto industry.
However, the Morales Administration has made it clear that the state hopes to retain overall ownership and control of the lithium resources. The Bolivian President said he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to form a high-level bilateral committee to begin meeting in September to promote the development of Bolivia’s lithium resources.
Morales has also been a strong advocate of would-be lithium mining investors to also commit to manufacturing lithium batteries in Bolivia, rather than simply extracting lithium. He has repeatedly insisted that foreign partnership in the lithium industry will be welcomed from nations that are ideologically compatible with his left-wing model.
So far, Morales has met with the Japanese’s government and several Japanese companies concerning mining concessions to develop Bolivia’s lithium resources, as well as a geothermal power plant.
A year ago, Morales and the President of South Korea agreed to a partnership of the development of lithium mines and other resources. A Memorandum of Understanding on the Research and Development for the Industrialization of Evaporative Resources in the Uyani Salt Flats was signed at the time.
Metatags: Bolivia, Bolivian mining, Evo Morales, Bolivian lithium resources, CITIC, Chinese government foreign mining investment, South Korean foreign mining investment, Japanese foreign mining investment, lithium batteries, Empresa Boliviana de Recursos Evaporiticos, Coipasa salt flats, Uyani salt flats