February 28, 2024

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Bolivia is implementing a new lithium extraction technology with a Russian company

Bolivia is implementing a new lithium extraction technology with a Russian company

La Paz. The Bolivian state-owned company YLB (Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos) and the Russian company Uranium One Group have signed an agreement to build an industrial plant for the direct extraction of lithium (extracción directa del litio, EDL). Bolivian President Luis Arce spoke in his X account of a “historic day” for the country’s industrialization.

YLB President Carla Calderon provided more details about the facility in the town of Colcha “K”, located 100 kilometers west of the city of Uyuni, in the province of Potosi. She explained that the production capacity will be divided into three stages. Initially, 1,000 tons of lithium carbonate will be produced annually, in the second phase 8,000 tons, and finally in the third stage, 14,000 tons annually. Russia's Uranium One Group is a subsidiary of the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) and was selected from seven applicants. YLB launched an international tender for the project more than a year ago.

Before the final signing of the contract, Uranium One Group still needs to conduct on-site geological, environmental and water availability studies for production using the new lithium extraction technology. Hopes are high for EDL technology. The Bolivian government expects lithium exports to rise to $5 billion next year. This would therefore exceed gas sales, which until recently were the country's main export.

Uranium One Group is raising a total investment of approximately US$450 million for the Colcha “K” plant. In the middle of the year, an agreement was reached with the Russian company to establish an industrial complex with EDL technology in Bastos Grandes with a total investment of $600 million.

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On the home page of the Uranium One group, the technology of the Russian EDL is described as more efficient and environmentally friendly than others. Chemicals should be avoided in the technological process and maximum water reuse should be ensured. In this way, the hydrogeological balance should remain unaffected. With this new resource-saving technology and the use of renewable energy sources, environmentally friendly “green lithium” will be produced.

President Ars also announced that there will be another international call for tenders to attract more companies to implement EDL technology.

Lithium is a preferred component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and is therefore seen as a key component in the green energy transition. Bolivia has the largest lithium reserve in the world at approximately 21 million tons.