A Russian, another American and two Chinese companies successfully tested their direct lithium extraction (EDL) technologies in the Bolivian salt flats, the Bolivian government reported this Friday.
The Russian firm Uranium One Group, the American Lilac Solutions and the Chinese Citic Guoan and Tbea Group were able to verify that their EDL technologies can be applied in the salt flats of the Andean regions of Potosí and Oruro, said the president of Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos ( YLB), Carlos Ramos, quoted in a statement from that state entity.
Ramos recalled that these four companies participated in the international EDL technology selection call launched in 2021 by Bolivia, in addition to the Chinese consortium CATL BRUNP & CMOC (CBC), with which the Bolivian government signed a contract last January for the installation of two industrial complexes with that technique.
According to the head of YLB, these companies passed all the stages of the call, including technical and operational evaluations, memorandums of understanding, technology patent confidentiality agreements, and pilot tests with samples of Bolivian brines.
“It has been a work of almost two years to select the best technologies and accelerate the process of production and industrialization of lithium.Ramos added.
The Bolivian state company explained that the evaluated technologies of the four companies are “applicable” to the Bolivian salt flats according to their characteristics and report a lithium recovery rate “greater than 80%”.
Specifically, they can be applied in the Uyuni and Pastos Grandes salt flats in Potosí, and Coipasa, shared between Oruro and Chile.
Ramos mentioned that from the beginning it was made clear to the participating companies that Bolivia will make the sovereignty of the State prevail over its natural resources as, according to what he said, was achieved in the contract with CBC.
YLB did not specify if they continue negotiations with these companies to move towards the signing of contracts.
Bolivia has reserves estimated at 21 million tons of lithium, one of the largest in the world, most of it in Uyuni, and to a lesser extent in Pastos Grandes and Coipasa.
The country already has industrialization plants for salts, potassium chloride, a lithium carbonate pilot plant in operation, and a larger scale one is under construction that is expected to produce some 15,000 tons.
Last January, the Government of Luis Arce hired CBC to set up two industrial complexes with EDL technology in Uyuni and Coipasa, with an initial investment of US$1 billion.
Each complex will have the capacity to produce up to 25,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year in battery grade and with 99.5% purity, and with semi-industrialization and industrialization processes in the evaporitic chain, the Bolivian authorities reported at the time.
The Bolivian Executive also wants to coordinate with Chile, Argentina and Peru to promote regional development from lithium.
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