No menu items!

Bolivia champions direct lithium extraction; assures it will expedite its industrialization

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Deputy Minister of High Energy Technologies Álvaro Arnez said that with DLE it will be possible to “accelerate the use” of lithium and give it an added value through industrialization.

“This will allow us to take a qualitative leap and reach the end of 2024 or early 2025 with industrial-scale production of lithium hydroxide and battery cathodes,” Arnez said in a press release from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy.

The Bolivian government argued that the implementation of direct lithium extraction technology (DLE) will enable it to expedite the resource’s industrialization process. (photo internet reproduction)


The Deputy Minister recalled that last November memoranda of “understanding and confidentiality” were signed with 8 companies to conduct pilot tests with DLE technologies in the Bolivian salt flats of Uyuni, Pastos Grandes and Coipasa.

These companies are CATL BRUNP & CMOC, Fusion Enertech, EnergyX, Tecpetrol, Lilac Solutions, CITIC GUOAN/CRIG, TBEA Group and Uranium One Group, from the United States, China, Russia and Argentina.

The companies “are not authorized to exploit lithium in the country’s salt flats,” they were only granted “certain quantities of brine to conduct their demonstrations until April” and present the results obtained, the official clarified.

The civic organizations of Potosí, the region where the Uyuni salt flat is located, have rejected what they consider to be an alleged handing over of the department’s natural resources to transnational companies.

Arnez stressed that the use of DLE technology was being analyzed to accelerate lithium industrialization, as it would reduce the time required to separate the element and other metals found in the brine, as well as cut costs and reduce the environmental impact, according to the press release.

“Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) will assess which is the best technology, that is, the least expensive, the best performance in less time and the least polluting, and then we will move on to the next step, which is to acquire the patent of the company or companies that meet these indicators,” he said.

He also said that the country is not spending resources on these tests and that it is the companies that bear these costs.

Bolivia has reserves of 21 million tons of lithium, among the world’s largest, the majority of which are found in Potosí’s Uyuni salt flats.

Lithium was in the spotlight after Evo Morales’ departure from the Presidency in November 2019, with the ex-president repeatedly claiming that he was forced to resign due to an alleged coup d’état against him promoted by interests such as the United States over this Bolivian resource.

A claim that has been rejected by the parties concerned and by officials of the interim government of ex-president Jeanine Áñez, who merely maintained the projects initiated by Morales and did not make any decisions on potential alliances with foreign investors.

Check out our other content

You have free article(s) remaining. Subscribe for unlimited access.