German lithium project in Bolivia before rebooting?

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German lithium project in Bolivia before rebooting?-project

A prestigious project for the German car and battery industry, the exclusive access to a large lithium deposit in Bolivia, gets a chance: The State Bolivian Lithium Agency YLB and the German SME Systems Aci Systems Alemania (ACISA) want to cancel the cooperation agreement canceled in October 2019 apparently yet implement. “There are contacts again,” acisa managing director of Wolfgang dirt in a conversation with the business magazine Capital (issue 09/2021). Already in January, ACISA shared himself with the Energy Ministry of the new Bolivian government under President Luiz Arce to be in contact with. At the end of August, direct talks about lithium production and industrialization from resinsole at Salar de Uyuni should now take place again.

At the success of the new negotiations, the entire German auto industry is highly interested, so the business magazine. It needs the Bolivian lithium for battery production and new electric cars. Bolivia has about one third of worldwide lithium reserves. Two years ago, angry protests of the local population led to the termination of the already negotiated contract by the former President Evo Morales. “These protests were fueled by the President’s political opponents to prevent their re-election,” says Alberto EchazĂș, who was involved in the negotiations with the Germans as the Vice Minister of Energy.

The German site now goes with a new approach to the talks. “We want to involve the local associations and institutions from the beginning,” says dirt. ACISA originally counted with investments of 1.2 billion euros. 51 percent of the shares in the lithium joint venture should keep the Bolivians, 49 percent the Germans. “We offered the Bolivians a partnership at eye level,” says dirt. These include, for example, the training of local professionals, help in industrialization along the lithium value chain, as well as the construction of a battery cell factory. According to ACISA, the project is about 1000 direct and about 10.000 Indirect jobs in an economically weak region.

The largest lithium deposited of the earth

In Salar de Uyuni, Acisa is the largest lithium deposited of the earth. Since there are many magnesium salts, it was previously used as economically usable. In 2016, the Bolivian state-owned company YLB (Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos) begun to build great evaporation basin for potassium chloride and lithium carbonate production at the Salar de Uyuni. The first of them were put into operation two years later.

The evaporation won a lithium sulfate raw salt for lithium carbonate production. The remaining residual contains a high proportion of magnesium, but also most of the lithium contained in the original sole. In the classic manufacturing process, the resentole can not be recycled and therefore is disposed of so far.

ACISA is managed in cooperation with the Thuringian company K-Utec, to win lithium hydroxide in high purity form directly from this residual. A big advantage of the developed technology is that they do not require a specially supplied water. At the same time, the new method is comparatively inexpensive. The contractually guaranteed residual allows the recovery of around 40.000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year. Only two percent of the area of Salar de Uyuni is used by the entire project, see ACISA.

Environmental concerns of the local population can be invalidated, saying dirt, since the lithium hydroxide is obtained from the residual, which falls as a waste product in the existing plant. “For this we do not need fresh water sources, but you can clean and use the existing water again and again,” he says. And for a better climate balance, the Germans want to cover 30 percent of the energy demand of the system with solar panels. The critics also bothered at the term of the project of 70 years, it says. Here are the Germans compromise: “We can accept a runtime between 30 and 40 years,” so dirt. In the case of successful conversations, already at the end of 2022 with the recovery of lithium can be recovered.

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