Bolivia to Join Forces with ACI Systems in Billion-dollar Lithium Deal

- April 23rd, 2018

Bolivia has outlined plans to produce and market lithium-ion batteries together with German company ACI Systems to meet expected demand.

Bolivia has outlined plans to produce and market lithium-ion batteries together with Germany’s ACI Systems, which is set to invest US$1.3 billion in the project.

Demand for lithium, a key element in electric car batteries, is expected to surge in the coming years. Bolivia, alongside Chile and Argentina, is part of the “lithium triangle,” which hosts more than half of the world’s lithium reserves.

“The German company ACI Systems has been selected as the strategic partner,” Juan Carlos Montenegro, head of state-owned company Bolivian Lithium Deposits, or YLB by its Spanish initials, told Patria Nueva Radio.

He said the joint-venture deal will be inked as soon as possible so that operations can begin in about 18 months. According to YLB, the process will allow annual revenues of US$1.2 billion, of which US$1 billion will be net profits.

Last week, Bolivia’s energy minister said the government had received various offers, eight in total, to develop the country’s ample lithium resources. A proposal from Russia was also considered.

Alarcon said the winning candidate would bring both the expertise and technology necessary to develop the resources, from raw material to battery production, and would be required to partner with the state.

Bolivia’s lithium production lags behind neighboring Chile and Argentina. The South American country had hoped its project at Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, would produce four times more than what it’s currently producing.

According to some analysts, foreign companies have so far turned down the opportunity to operate in Bolivia due to fears of potential problems and the risk that they might need to be nationalized.

In addition, some concerns on whether Bolivian resources could be extracted economically have also pushed international companies away from the country.

Last year, speaking to Reuters about slow production, Montenegro dismissed any concerns, saying the most important thing for the country are the results to be seen in 2018 and 2019.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Lithium in 2018

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