| BUENOS AIRES
BUENOS AIRES Feb 8 Argentina's lithium
carbonate production will triple by 2019, and could grow by even
more if companies find financing for various projects they are
prepared to launch, industry executives and a government
official told Reuters.
Demand for lithium - a crucial material in electric car
batteries and mobile phones - is soaring worldwide, prompting
miners to lock up new sources of supply. Argentina is already
the world's third largest producer, and forms part of the
so-called lithium triangle with Bolivia and Chile that accounts
for half the world's reserves.
Center-right President Mauricio Macri has implemented a
number of pro-market reforms in Latin America's third-largest
economy since taking office in December 2015, making Argentina a
natural choice for miners looking to boost output.
"Certainly, the world is focusing on Argentina," said John
Kanellistas, president of Canadian miner Lithium Americas
, which last month partnered with China's Ganfeng
Lithium to build a 25,000 tonne-per-year processing
plant to open by mid 2019 that would handle 85 percent of
Argentina's current output of 29,000 tonnes per year.
Argentina represents 15 percent of total world production of
200,000 tonnes. Global output is expected to reach
400,000-500,000 tonnes by 2025, spurred by the growth of
Australian miner Orocobre plans to boost output at
its Salar de Olaroz facility to 35,000 tonnes in 2018, double
the 17,500 tonnes it expects to produce this year, a company
There are currently more than 30 proposals to develop
lithium reserves, and three companies are actively seeking
funding to build plants, said Mario Capello, subsecretary for
mining development in Argentina's Energy and Mining Ministry.
That includes Galaxy Resources' 25,000 tonne
facility, a 20,000-tonne project by French miner Eramet
, and a 50,000-tonne joint venture from Canada's Enirgi
Group Corporation and Australia's ADY Resources
Macri has highlighted the country's lithium reserves as an
opportunity to attract foreign investment and boost the sluggish
economy. He has removed the previous center-left
administration's mineral export taxes and overturned a ban on
companies shifting profits overseas.
"Without a doubt, the president's measures have brought back
competition, predictability, and clear rules of the game to the
mining sector, which has resulted in a lot of interest in
lithium in particular," Capello said.
Argentina is also looking to promote domestic manufacturing
of lithium batteries, and last year Italian battery manufacturer
FIB-FAAM reached a deal to build a lithium cell and battery
plant with Y-Tec, a technology company controlled by state-owned
oil company YPF.
(Reporting by Juliana Castilla; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing
by Alden Bentley)