Green shoots

Argentina’s lithium industry continues to grow, despite the country’s economic woes.

Despite Argentina’s apparently never-ending crisis, some of the country’s industries are showing some “green shoots”, such as lithium production. Argentina is the world’s fourth largest producer of lithium, behind Australia, Chile, and China.

South America’s ‘Lithium Triangle’ of Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile is a globally important region, according to the author of several books on lithium geopolitics, “Lithium production in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia has a great comparative advantage: it is made from brine that is found on the surface, in a salt flat, so the production costs are significantly lower.”

“Lithium production in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia has a great comparative advantage.”

Author, lithium geopolitics

Argentina has experienced what Time magazine described a ‘Sustainable Gold Rush’ as the country now concentrates 21% of the world’s lithium reserves, known as white gold, with two operational mines, 13 planned and dozens under consideration. The ongoing projects are the Hombre Muerto salt flat, operated by the US company Livent (associated with BMW), which plans to double its 20,000 annual tonnes production with a USD 640 million investment; and the Sales de Jujuy flat which has a 17,500 tonnes production capacity managed by Orocobre, an Australian company (associated with Toyota).

A Chilean mining executive commented, “Bolivia and Argentina want to move up the value chain and export batteries. For Chile, the model is clear, if a company ensures the investment, it will have the tender to exploit the lithium. In reality, Argentina follows the same approach but in a hidden way: its rhetoric continues to be to pursue greater added value while it already has several transnational companies participating in the exploitation.”

“Bolivia and Argentina want to move up the value chain and export batteries. For Chile, the model is clear, if a company ensures the investment, it will have the tender to exploit the lithium.”

Mining executive, Chile

Early success has led the Argentinean government to give lithium extraction and the production of batteries for electric vehicles a central role in the country’s troubled industrial sector. Moreover, the regions of Salta, Catamarca, and Jujuy ratified in September 2022 an inter-provincial treaty for the creation of a lithium mining region. The project foresees the creation of a committee formed by the heads of the mining authority of each region and representatives of the federal ministries of the interior; development; and science and technology.

In this context, Sergio Massa, Minister of Finance, appointed Fernanda Ávila as Secretary of Mining from the Catamarca regional government. She has been meeting with international investors such as Livent and Rio Tinto with the aim of reassuring that the government has taken a pro-business stance in which private companies control the lithium production levels.

Technology is a key question, explained the mining executive, “Most of the large consortiums in Chile and Argentina extract cheap lithium by evaporating brines from shallow ponds. This is an inexpensive process but causes environmental harm through loss of groundwater. Direct extraction is a newer approach that has a higher financial cost but is more environmentally friendly as it recycles a high percentage of the brine water. Governments want companies to use this direct extraction technique, but are companies prepared to make the investment?

Important Notice
While the information in this article has been prepared in good faith, no representation, warranty, assurance or undertaking (express or implied) is or will be made, and no responsibility or liability is or will be accepted by Deheza Limited or by its officers, employees or agents in relation to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness or reasonableness of this article, or of any other information (whether written or oral), notice or document supplied or otherwise made available in connection with this article. All and any such responsibility and liability is expressly disclaimed.
This article has been delivered to interested parties for information only. Deheza Limited gives no undertaking to provide the recipient with access to any additional information or to update this article or any additional information, or to correct any inaccuracies in it which may become apparent.

Most recent in Commodities

The Grape Divide

The fruity battle between Peru and Chile for global dominance.

Bugging Out

Navigating Latin America’s crop protection chemicals market.

Superstar soybean in South America

Navigating challenges and embracing advancements.

Where the money grows on trees

Making sense of Uruguay’s forest boom.

The ‘berry’ best

Blueberries become Peru's leading agricultural export, surpassing coffee and grapes.

Withering wheat

Droughts affecting 75% of Argentina’s agricultural land decimate the country’s wheat crop.

Meat meeting

Livestock entrepreneurs assemble in Bolivia to consider growth of beef exports.

Agtech booms

Venture capital funds flow into Latin American agtech.

The appeal of steel

Steel production is growing in Latin America

Missing the key ingredient

Amidst inflationary pressures, Mexico could ration cooking oil.