* $485 mln plant to produce 30,000 T/yr lithium carbonate
* Foreign companies not welcomed in project
LA PAZ, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Thursday that the impoverished Andean country does not need foreign investors to develop an ambitious lithium carbonate project by 2014.
Morales, who has tightened the state’s grip on the economy by nationalizing key companies, told reporters he was confident that Bolivia will build a plant to produce up to 30,000 tonnes a year of lithium carbonate in the Uyuni salt lake, which holds the world’s largest lithium bounty.
Bolivia does not currently mine lithium, the main component of the rechargeable batteries that power everything from laptops to cameras. Existing suppliers such as neighboring Argentina and Chile can meet existing demand, but Bolivia plans to develop a lithium industry ahead of a possible electric car boom, which could cause demand for lithium to soar.
“Bolivia guarantees a change in the world’s energy balance ... we assure the world we’ll be able to supply enough lithium for electric cars,” Morales told reporters.
Factbox on lithium sources and mining [ID:nN06267755]
Factbox: Five basic facts about lithium [ID:nN06279444]
He reiterated that landlocked Bolivia does not need foreign investors to develop the project, in which state-run mining company Comibol plans to invest $485 million.
After negotiating with companies including France’s Bollore (BOLL.PA), South Korea’s LG (051910.KS), and Japan’s Sumitomo (4005.T) and Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T), Bolivia’s leftist government decided to develop a lithium industry in Uyuni by itself last year. [ID:nN31445616]
Bolivia has around 50 percent of the world’s lithium, about 5.4 million tonnes, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Analysts have shed doubts on Bolivia’ bold plans to develop a lithium industry single-handedly saying that Comibol lacks the know-how to forge ahead with the project and some have questioned the quality of the deposit. [ID:nN25499482] (Reporting by Carlos A. Quiroga; Writing by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)