29 Jun 2023 17:26

Rosatom entity to mine lithium in Bolivia

MOSCOW. June 29 (Interfax) - Uranium One Group, an entity of Rosatom state nuclear energy corporation, has agreed on mining lithium with Bolivia's Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB), the Strana Rosatom corporate publication reported on its Telegram channel.

The parties signed a framework agreement to build a complex for extracting and producing lithium carbonate.

The complex will be created at the Pastos Grandes salt lake, Strana Rosatom said.

"This is Rosatom's first large-scale foreign lithium production project, in which about $600 million will be invested. An industrial complex with capacity of 25,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year is planned for construction, with the possibility of ramping up capacity based on the results of geological exploration," Strana Rosatom quoted First Deputy General Director Kirill Komarov as saying.

Atom Media Group, the Russian nuclear industry's digital press center, specified in the statement that, "The signed agreement for Uranium One Group resulted from participation in the YLB-organized international competition of technologies for direct sorption extraction of lithium."

"We have been working towards this agreement for a long time. Almost two years. And it was a very serious tender, in which more than 20 companies with different technologies, with different investment proposals, took part," Alexei Likhachev, head of Rosatom, said on the Russia-24 TV channel.

"Active work" is scheduled to begin in 2025, he said. "By 2027, we will reach planned capacity, which is 25,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate per year," he said, noting that this is nearly 4% of the global lithium market "in its current parameters."

As the FT reported last year, Rosatom and several Chinese companies were on the short list of potential YLB partners in the industry. It also became known at the beginning of this year that Bolivia had selected China's CATL for these purposes. The La Razon publication reported that CATL's $1.4-billion investment was confirmed for constructing two plants with direct lithium extraction technology in the Uyuni and Coipas salt lakes, respectively, during a recent meeting between Bolivian President Luis Arce and CATL management.

Rosatom is already cooperating with Bolivia in other areas. The parties back in 2016 signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in peaceful nuclear development, as well as on cooperation to construct a center for nuclear research and technology.