(above) UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 12: Bolivian President, Evo Morales Ayma holds a Bolivia flag on the start line during day 9 of the Dakar Rally on the Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flats on January 12, 2015 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo : Getty Images/Dean Mouhtaropoulos )


Bolivia's Lithium Dream Bound to Come True? Nation's Lithium Potential Foreseen to Boost Economic Growth


By KJ Mariño (staff@latinpost.com)

Bolivia, Chile and China are three of the most notable countries in the world where the alkali metal lithium exists. And Bolivia has set to become a significant part in the development of green technology.

Considered as a very poor landlocked South American nation, Bolivia is a country where many of its people work in salt mines. But thanks to salt and brine, which are essential in developing commercial quantities of lithium, it may turn the country as the new Saudi Arabia of Latin America.

Lithium is a soft silver white metal usually found in brine, clay and certain rock face. Because it is a super conductor, it's used as an important ingredient for the development and production of batteries. Today, it is used in the production of thermonuclear weapons as well as in smartphones, robotics and electric cars.

Bolivia has been optimistic about the nation's lithium dream. As a matter of fact, generations of politicians have long made resonating declarations about the country's lithium potential, Latin Correspondent has learned.

The South American nation is thought to hold about half of the lithium reserves in the world. However, it's quite a challenge to determine the quantities of lithium deposits below the vast, bleached expanse of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Southwest Bolivia.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, however, remains hopeful, saying the value of lithium is the "hope of humanity" and the key to the nation's economic growth.

"The state shall never lose sovereignty over lithium," Morales told the New Yorker.

"We have taken important steps towards industrializing lithium," Morales added, "but we are the masters here."

Morales' words were also echoed by Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, emphasizing that lithium industrialization in the coming years will boost the nation's economy.

"We want Bolivia to become universal lithium power," García Linera said to Unitel Television, as per Prensa Latina. "We have 80 percent of world reserves and currently that is the element that drives technological development worldwide and our objective, through its industrialization, it is also to be an international leader."

García Linera also stressed that the price of lithium worldwide will be set by Bolivia. And along with the industrialization of lithium, the nation also aims to be the energy center of South America, noting its social and political stability as well as its steady economic growth.

Another reason that is encouraging Bolivia's lithium dream is the increasing demand from China's manufacturing sector. Since the Chinese government was forced to look overseas for its lithium needs, a Chinese company signed an agreement with the Bolivian government to build a $178 million potassium salts plant, which will help move Bolivia from the pilot phase to the industrialization of the lithium deposits.

So, is the demand finally catching up with Bolivia's bountiful supply? While the automotive industry increasingly turns towards electric-powered and hybrid cars, it is yet to convince the majority of consumers.

Video: Bolivia plans to extract lithium | Business Brief