UK university, Bolivian government join forces to boost lithium industry

Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. (Reference image by Dan Lundberg, Wikimedia Commons.)

The University of Warwick and the Bolivian Government have joined forces to collaborate on lithium battery research with the goal of backing the South American country’s efforts to become a world leader in renewable energies and electric vehicles.

In a media statement, the partners explained that the project supports Bolivia’s ambition to provide 40% of the world’s supply of lithium by 2030. 

“[The deal] will see Bolivia be at the forefront of the lithium value chain, lead to higher paying employment and industry and a transition away from simple extraction and exploitation of raw materials,” the release states.

Bolivia’s vast salt flats harbour an estimated 39 million tonnes of lithium reserve. Together with Argentina and Chile, the Andean nation is part of the so-called Lithium Triangle.

In detail, the partnership will link up the University’s Warwick Manufacturing Group with Yacimentos de Lito Bolivianos, Bolivia’s lithium mining institution, and the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energies in a multi-year research project to improve the understanding and possibilities for lithium battery technology. 

The partnership is also expected to address the drawbacks associated with using fresh water in the lithium extraction process – thus working towards making the industry more sustainable and less environmentally damaging.

Besides involving senior researchers from the UK and Bolivia, the initiative will allow several master’s degree students to receive scholarships connected to the program.