Bolivia Wants Lithium Industry, Seeks Foreign Partner
As we have already told you in a previous news, Bolivia has about half the world's proven lithium reserves and its president hopes to take advantage of this situation.
"Lithium is the hope not just for Bolivia but for all inhabitants of the planet," President Evo Morales said before meeting in Paris last month with Bollore Group, one of several companies interested in a future collaboration with the Bolivian state.
Even if the president is waiting for the right partner to start the business, it seems that he sets some requirements that make this partnership not very attractive to any foreign investor.
"The state doesn't see ever losing sovereignty over the lithium," Morales told the press. "Whoever wants to invest in it should be assured that the state must have control of 60 percent of the earnings."
After the meeting with Morales, the Bollore Group's financial director, Thierry Marraud, that his company was preparing a detailed plan to develop Bolivia's lithium industry.
"We told him, 'For you, it's better to transform the lithium than just to export it straight,'" he said. "If President Morales wants a car plant, we can help him, Why not? It's not impossible."
Another company that is currently negotiating with Morales is the Japanese Sumitomo. Spokesman Koji Furui believes they will reach a positive conclusion for both sides as his company has just bought a silver mine concession nearby.
In addition, Mitsubishi has emphasized that their discussions with Morales have become more serious, but they refused to provide the media with other details.
However, the project has many drawbacks and high demands of Morales make it even more difficult for investors to reach a final decision. Battery-making requires a lot of investments. Moreover, few jobs will be created because the technologies are highly automated and besides, auto manufacturers want batteries made near their assembly plants.
Taking into consideration these drawbacks, experts think that Morales is asking too much from such a partnership.