Rosatom’s international uranium mining holding Uranium One Group and Bolivia’s state-owned lithium company Yacimientos de Litio de Bolivia (YLB) signed a framework agreement on the construction of an industrial complex for the extraction and production of lithium carbonate in the Potosi department in Bolivia, the state corporation said. “The joint Russian-Bolivian project will create in Bolivia, the country with the richest lithium reserves in the world, a full-fledged production chain – from the extraction of lithium raw materials to the production of a market product,” the publication says. According to Kirill Komarov, First Deputy Director General – Director of the Development and International Business Block of Rosatom, who is quoted in the release, “the agreement opens up new prospects for long-term cooperation between Russia and Bolivia.”
“For Rosatom, this is the first large-scale foreign project in the field of lithium production, investments in which will amount to about $600 million. It is planned to build an industrial complex with a capacity of 25,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year with the possibility of increasing the capacity based on the results of geological exploration,” Komarov said. In accordance with the signed document, Rosatom’s subsidiary Uranium One Group signed a framework agreement with the Bolivian state-owned company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (Bolivian Lithium Deposits) on the construction of an industrial complex for the extraction and production of lithium carbonate, which was confirmed by the Bolivian government. Uranium One Group will participate in the construction of an industrial complex based on the hydro-mineral spring (salar) Pastos Grandes, located in Potosi. Lithium mining is planned according to the Russian technology of direct sorption extraction, which has already confirmed its high economic efficiency and environmental safety, the report says.
In June 2022, Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos announced that Uranium One Group was one of the finalists in a competition to develop several lithium deposits along with the American Lilac Solutions, as well as four companies from China. President of the Bolivian state-owned company Carlos Ramos said that these applicants provided the best technologies for field development and production organization. For Rosatom, this is the first large-scale foreign project in the field of lithium production, investments in which will amount to about $600 million, Kirill Komarov said. According to him, it is planned to build an industrial complex with a capacity of 25 thousand tons (6% of world production) of lithium carbonate per year with the possibility of increasing it based on the results of geological exploration. The commissioning of the first stage and the start of production of finished products is scheduled for 2024, reaching full capacity (25 thousand tons) – in 2027.
Lithium is a raw material for the production of batteries and energy storage systems needed for electric vehicles and renewable energy sources. The world’s largest lithium producers are Australia (55%), Chile (26%), China (14%) and Argentina (6%). At the same time, in Bolivia, where until now there has been almost no mining (543 tons of lithium carbonate per year; for comparison: neighboring Chile produces 208 thousand tons per year), according to the US Geological Survey, 21 million tons are concentrated, or in 21, 4% of the world’s resources of this metal. Russia also does not yet produce lithium, so it imports about 9,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year from South America. Bolivia has the largest proven lithium reserves in the world, located mainly in the salt marshes of Uyuni, Coipas and Pastos Grandes in the southwestern highlands. Lithium is in demand in the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are used to equip smartphones and electric vehicles, and create powerful energy storage systems. Lithium is also used in electronics, to create lasers, new materials and alloys, in the textile, food and pharmaceutical industries. In the nuclear power industry, the lithium-7 isotope is used to suppress corrosion of structural materials in reactor plants of PWR type nuclear power plants (pressurized water reactor).