China bets on Bolivian lithium

Chinese state company CITIC Guoan Group Corp. will commence exploration of the Bolivian salt flats to determine and quantify reserves of lithium and potassium, under the an agreement signed by the parties in August, reports America Economia magazine. 

The contract grants CITI the rights to explore for the metals in Salar de Coipasa, located 300 kilometres south of the capital La Paz, by the Chilean border.

With 2218 km of area, Coipasa is the second largest salt flat in Bolivia after the Salar de Uyuni, which covers over 8,000 km2. Uyuni is the largest salt desert in the world and Coipasa the fifth. 

CITI president and CEO Yan Hao Yu said in a statement to the government agency ABI, that the company’s activities in Bolivia will be guided by the principles of mutual respect and strategic reciprocity.

According to figures released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Bolivia last month, 26% of the population (2.5 million people) live in extreme poverty. Local authorities quoted by America Economia, said the exploration and subsequent exploitation of lithium in Bolivia could help alleviate the country’s depressed economy, as the country has more than 70% of the world’s reserves of lithium, according to Bolivia’s government.

Lithium is currently used in the production of batteries, ceramic, glass, lubricating greases, aluminum production and pharmaceuticals, among other applications.

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