The use of lithium is not allowed in Bolivia due to the opposition of the local population of the Salar de Uyuni and Chile is no longer issuing new concessions. “Argentina has in the provinces of Catamarca, Salta and Jujuy in the quantity and quality the most fantastic world lithium” rejoices for his part the Argentine Secretary of Mining, Jorge Mayoral. “It is an ore which Argentina bet strong. And Argentina is sitting on 128 million tons of potential lithium carbonate, a vital element for battery production,” the government minister left President Cristina Kirchner. In the mountainous region of Puna, at the foot of the Andes, the “salt flats” (salt deserts) contain valuable lithium, long battery warranty. In 2014, the global lithium demand was 170,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent. American companies, Japanese, South Korean already deposits. “We did not receive as much investment in lithium (…), all car manufacturers imaginable are or have been surveys in Argentina to get a foot in the development of lithium,” says Jorge Mayoral .
Toyota Japan’s and Mitsubishi, South Korea’s Posco began producing in the province of Jujuy, border of Chile and Bolivia. In search of a deposit referred to in the “golden triangle of lithium” (Argentina / Bolivia / Chile), the French group Eramet has also set his sights on Argentina, in 2013 and opted for two deposits in the province of Salta The salt flats of Centenario and Ratones, 500 km2 in total. “It’s a beautiful field. It was found a significant level of resources, more than 7 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent” enthuses Mary Aulanier Hughes, in charge of strategy and development at Eramet. Lithium carbonate, extracted 20% lithium. The project Eramet has not yet entered a phase of production and geologists are working to determine what is actually exploitable volume. The operation is expected to last over 40 years. “For Eramet, said Mary Hughes Aulanier, production of lithium will be a first, this is part of the diversification strategy while remaining in line with some of its core businesses responsible exploitation of mineral resources and hydrometallurgy “.
The French company uses in its implementation of Salta an innovative process that will be” more environmentally friendly “. “This is a world first, noted the expert, co-developed by our center of R & amp; D and the French Petroleum Institute and new energies (IFPEN)”. A team of 30-40 people, the French and the Argentinians, working on site, in a desert and depopulated area, 4,000 meters above sea level amidst the llamas and vicunas. The first village, Santa Rosa Large, 60 km to the south. Eramet has joined in this operation with public mining company in the province of Salta, Remsa. An investment of $ 260 million will be committed once the study of technical, economic and financial feasibility has given the green light. The production will be 20,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent per year by the year 2019.