• Bolivia plans to sell lithium mining rights in the country later this month
  • The country hosts around 21 million tonnes out of the 89 million tonnes globally
  • 8 companies who plan to use direct lithium extraction (DLE) tech are currently in the running

 All your ASX lithium news for Wednesday, May 25.

 

Bolivia’s government is planning to sell rights to mine for lithium in the country this month, in a move that officials hope will bring economic growth.

The country hosts 21 million tonnes out of the 89 million tonnes that make up the world’s known lithium resources, according to the US Geological Survey, although none of it is listed as commercially viable.

Bolivia’s long-term goal is to make lithium-ion batteries locally by 2025, an ambition even neighbouring Chile, the world’s No. 2 lithium producer, has not achieved after decades of production.


But there are a few hurdles, namely technological challenges, simmering citizen resistance, a non-existent legal framework for lithium mining, and looming infighting within Bolivia’s ruling socialist party over taxes and royalties.

“I see an exaggerated enthusiasm. It’s not grounded in reality,” said Juan Carlos Montenegro, a former top Bolivian official in charge of lithium extraction under the administration of ex-President Evo Morales, told Reuters.

Not to mention that traditional evaporation ponds have failed in country due to naturally high concentrations of magnesium, so President Luis Arce has only solicited bids from firms using Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology.

DLE tech promises to produce cheaper, higher quality, and more environmentally friendly lithium than incumbent processes. Its why companies like Lake Resources (ASX:LKE)Vulcan (ASX:VUL) and Anson Resources (ASX:ASN) have it at the heart of their respective projects.

“The brine [is pumped] into a tank for a couple of hours, where these little ion exchange beads latch onto all the lithium,” Lake’s Steve Promnitz says.

“Then you release that water – without lithium — back into the aquifer.

“We aren’t heating or cooling the water, it operates at ambient temperature, so we aren’t doing anything particularly tricky. All we do is replace the evaporation ponds with these tanks, or modules.”

Bolivia expects to announce later this month one or more partnerships with foreign firms, with eight competitors from China, Russia, Argentina and the United States bidding – none of which have exploited lithium at a commercial scale before.

 

Here’s how ASX lithium stocks were tracking today:

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No news of note today, and it was a pretty flaccid day across the board, with total of 36 stocks in the green, 49 in the red, and 39 failing to move the needle.