Monday , November 29 2021

The dream "almost impossible" for Bolivia lithium mining company imitating inexperienced


Many doubt that the Lithium Bolivia will never support commercial mining operation. In the past, both companies tried to sign an agreement with the government but faced uncertainty or unreasonable governmental requests.

small army & # 39; workers from the cities and towns of Bolivia board buses for the last part of & # 39; a trip that can & # 39; last for days. The rough road & # 39; winding and round, thin air in & # 39; altitude, the odyssey that took workers to the lighting plan & # 39; the greatest works & # 39; salt in the world, all this is between those who dreamed to recover and turn into Bolivia & # 39; electric car batteries.

These workers will spend two weeks in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, South South, before returning home to stay & # 39; seven days. They're trying to build lithium mine & # 39; world-class mountains & # 39; the Andes, about 12,000 feet & # 39; above sea level in the heart of Bolivia. The nearest port is & # 39; at least 500 kilometers and borders.

From above, this vast area seems so white joining & # 39; ġenzjanża plain lime. crystallize salt in the dry season, forming millions of & # 39; hexagons that resemble tiles covering a large area as Connecticut. During the wet season is covered by a thin layer of & # 39; water to form a giant mirror, reflecting the sky b & # 39; clearly that the horizon line disappears. The visual effect attracts thousands of & # 39; visitors and Dakar Rally each year, making it the leading tourist destination in Bolivia.

Removing lithium will be much more difficult to bring tourists. The most & # 39; observers doubt that Bolivia lithium will never support commercial operation of the mining However, the government is keen to take advantage of the global hunger for essential energy minerals electric cars and build a storage battery. The ambition is that Bolivia is changed to & # 39; manufacturer & # 39; rechargeable batteries for all-electric car & # 39; Tesla and nearly 300 models & # 39; Electric Vehicle (EV) are expected to reach the market by 2022, according to Bloomberg NEF.

"Bolivia will be a relevant player in the global lithium market within four & # 39; or five years", said Juan Carlos Montenegro, general manager of Lithium Deposit Bolivian state, or YLB. "And we do not stop there nippjanawx."

The Bolivian government, the population regime most long in America to & # 39; South, promised to be a player in the mineral market and batteries, using mainly its own engineers . Its pilot plant in & # 39; Uyuni produced about 250 tons & # 39; lithium carbonate this year, and said YLB can & # 39; bring production to 150,000 tonnes within five years. This makes Bolivia one of the countries with the highest and the source & # 39; about 20% of the lithium in the world by 2022, according to projections NEF & # 39; Bloomberg.

But the country also needs the help of a few foreign companies are not discouraged by the possibility of recovering lithium from one of the most remote places on the planet. And it seems that there is at least one willing to take that risk. Germany ACI systems.

Company mining inexperienced

Based in & # 39; Zimmern ob Rottweil, rural town in the heart of the Forest Black Germany, the company is a subsidiary of the ACI Group, which provides support for project management to the photovoltaic industry, batteries and automotive. The ACI Germany Systems employs only 20 people and created just to focus on building & # 39; lithium mine in Bolivia. The Executive Director, Wolfgang Schmutz, are knocks it will succeed in & # 39; poor countries failed long list of & # 39; lithium pretensuri of & # 39; elite.

"I know Bolivia." I and others in the company have personal relations with the country, "said Schmutz f & # 39; telephone interview." What we promised to the & # 39; now. There is a relationship of & # 39; we must continue to build trust ".

ACI recently signed an agreement with Bolivian President Evo Morales to build lithium-operation & # 39; US $ 250 million, the first step towards the manufacture of & # 39; cathodes and Bolivia batteries. The agreement is expected to be formalized at this month & # 39; 49-51 joint venture with & # 39; YLB. The German company has not obtained financing for the project.

"Bolivia does not host any of the cathode producer established", said Andrew Miller, senior analyst with & # 39; of & # 39 Inness, Benchmark ore Intelligence. "There are big obstacles in them to produce lithium, let alone develop secondary industry of battery cathode."

The reason for this is clear: the demand of lithium is expected to double by 2025. soft and light minerals are extracted mainly in Australia, Chile and Argentina. Bolivia has a huge amount: 9 million tonnes which have never been commercially exploited, the second largest reserve in the world, but & # 39; now there was no practical way to collect and sell.

Putting supply Bolivia marketing helps lithium miners that & # 39; now struggled to meet world demand. The main producers FMC and Albemarle, the United States; SQM, China and Tianqi Lithium, China, are investing billions to expand their existing operations. Even the most experienced are suffering from barriers, the delay in reporting SQM and unexpected difficulties in expanding in Chile. Albemarle reported interruptions to its operations in Chile, China and Australia for various reasons during the third quarter.

In the past, the FMC and steel & # 39; the Korean steel t & # 39; South POSCO tried to sign agreements with the government & # 39; Morales that have set up operations in lithium & # 39; Uyuni. Those attempts failed, the conversations stopped and investors faced uncertainty or unreasonable governmental requests.

The poorest nation in Latin America had at least 27 military junta and president in the last five decades. President Morales, elected in 2006, is the leader with & # 39; & # 39 many years, service and the latest generation of & # 39; left, including Venezwel Hugo Chavez, who came to power promising social justice.

bet answer

The nationalized hydrocarbons & # 39; Morales, the main source of & # 39; entry & # 39; Bolivia, as well as electricity and telecommunications network. He promised to "licensing itself b & # 39; dignity and sovereignty", and announced that foreign companies exploit lithium b & # 39; rough way, but processed by entities controlled by the State Bolivian transformed into & # 39; batteries. Morales once said he wanted to see "Toyota manufactured lithium in Bolivia."

"Bolivia is sincerely risky compared to & # 39; other parts of the world for lithium-investment," said Chris Berry, analyst and founder of the firm & # 39; House Mountain Partners research. "Investors are concerned about the return on capital and return on capital."

In North America & # 39; South, lithium is mixed in & # 39; saltwater tank under high salt flats in the mountains. To tiġbedha, the miners pumping brine into & # 39; massive lake, which is allowed to evaporate for months. This concentrated liquid transformed into & # 39; industrial chemical processing plants, which transformed into & # 39; lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide. Batteries giants like Panasonic and Samsung SDI convert these products into & # 39; rikarikati batteries that can be used in electric vehicles.

ACI m & # 39; has no background b & # 39; link to curing or battery parts. But it has a very optimistic goals Bolivia.

The agreement with the German company & # 39; YLB requires an initial investment of & # 39; US $ 250 million to build a processing plant Lithium f & # 39; Uyuni, with production to start in 2021 and reach a total capacity to 40,000 tons & # 39; lithium hydroxide per annum by the end of in 2022, about twice the capacity FMC, fourth & # 39; largest producer in the world, had in its operations in Argentina.

To achieve this feat, ACI will build on new and unproven technology from another German company, K-UTEC AG Salt Tech, believing it will speed up the process by producing lithium hydroxide directly from brine. The brine found in & # 39; Uyuni has high levels & # 39; magnesium, which makes its lithium less pure and more expensive than saline nearby in Chile and Argentina.

"There are too many loose ends and very secret by the government," said Juan Carlos Zuleta, professor and Bolivian lithium analyst. "ACI Systems m & # 39; has the technical and financial capacity to face challenging & # 39; this size."

In the coming weeks, YLB will also start building an industrial plant & # 39; USD 96 million b & # 39; ability to produce up to 18,000 tons & # 39; Lithium carbonate until early 2020, said Montenegro. He added that the company has already seen interest from state companies, mainly to serve the Chinese battery market, to sign & # 39; supply contracts for several years once the plant starts operating.

But the extraction of lithium from brine is not easy, nor is manufactures a chemical composition that battery manufacturers need at a competitive price. As the leading manufacturers in the world are already increasing production, Bolivia and effort & # 39; ACI to produce lithium may have started too late.

"The production of lithium in & # 39; a certain level & # 39; purity cathode production can & # 39; take a lot of time", said Berry. "For this project to go up where other players are around the world, will take years."

The lithium prices reached earlier historic highs this year, since the lithium carbonate from America to & # 39; South sold an average of & # 39; US $ 15,700 per tonne in & # 39; May and June, before prices fell to around US $ 14 375 per tonne in & # 39; in October, according to Intelligence Minerals & # 39; reference. Berry expects lithium prices stabilize around US $ 12,000 per tonne, where almost a third of the projects currently being processed under the cost curve. The best bet Bolivia is, at best, marginal.

The political plot

The market dynamics can & # 39; not so important to the Bolivian government, considering the industrialization of lithium as the next step after the nationalization of mines and hydrocarbons. "I am sure that lithium will be insurance in the economic and political point of view to contribute to the free and sovereign development & # 39; our beloved Bolivia," said f & # 39; August Morales.

The country will hold presidential elections the next year, and the government & # 39; Morales is expected to make an effort to close the lithium agreement before that, after a sharp defeat in the International Court of Justice in & # 39; Bolivian case related dispute. for maritime access for Chile.

"In Bolivia we have a government that has sold illusions, telling fairy tales and are now in a hurry to show done very well and is advancing with lithium & # 39; constant rate," said Zuleta. "They are not interested in whether or losing reap country, are interested to stay in power."

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