In the Potosi region of Bolivia, the deal between privately owned German company ACI Systems and the state-owned Bolivian company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB ) has been annulled by the cabinet of ministers of President Evo Morales.
Although the government has not stated reasons for the withdrawal, in the weeks leading up to the annulment, Bolivian protesters had taken to the streets demanding the agreed 3 per cent royalties be raised to 11 per cent. Local groups have said that the region should get more benefits from the deal.
Petosi governor, Juan Carlos Cejas said “Unfortunately, we have reached this situation. Time will tell who has really acted in the best interests of Potosi.” Cejas said that the decision was official, “We have received Supreme Decree 4070 by which the repeal of Supreme Decree 3738 of Dec. 7, 2018 is being arranged,” Cejas said.
Estimates suggest that the salt lake in Bolivia’s Petosi region holds around 10 million tons of lithium, making it one of the world’s largest lithium deposits. With previous technologies, the residual brine was discarded. With ACI’s processes, the brine would be utilised to produce lithium hydroxide suitable for use in electric vehicle batteries. For this, the German company was teaming up with partner companies such as K-UTEC AG Salt Technologies.
In December last year, after the Bolivian government awarded ACI Systems the role of strategic partner for the industrialisation of the county’s vast lithium deposits, a joint venture between the two companies was officially founded at a reception in Berlin. The Bolivian state-owned company was to hold a majority stake of 51 per cent, while ACI Systems was responsible for the final choice of tech and implementation partners, up until the construction of production lines to “ensure innovative, efficient and sustainable production”. ACI Systems was planning to invest around $1.3 billion in lithium deal, the contract had been signed and production rates were already specified. Now the fate of this partnership is entirely unclear.
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