Comisión científica trabaja para aprovechar yacimientos de litio en Uyuni

"Estamos avanzando en la validación de los procesos químicos y técnicos que van a permitir la obtención del carbonato de litio. Esto se está haciendo no sólo en Bolivia, sino también fuera del país, con técnicos nacionales y de diferentes países como el Japón", explicó.

El comité científico formado el año pasado a la cabeza del Gobierno, fue constituido para la investigación técnica que servirá de base para determinar el proceso de exploración que se hará en el salar.

Para tratar el tema de la explotación de litio, una delegación de la empresa automotriz francesa Bolloré, interesada en explotar el litio del Salar de Uyuni, llegará al país en junio para retomar las negociaciones.

Aunque no existen compromisos suscritos aún con la empresa gala, más que un acuerdo verbal de intenciones, la reunión servirá para el planteo de una propuesta formal para la explotación del mineral no pesado ni contaminante, altamente preciado por la industria automovilística planetaria.

Las negociaciones continuarán, también, de forma paralela, con las también interesadas japonesas Mitsubishi y Sumitomo.

En una pasada reunión, la automotriz francesa Bolloré propuso una inversión parcial de 1.200 millones de dólares para la explotación de yacimientos de litio en el sur de Bolivia, que incluye la construcción de plantas procesadoras de carbonato de litio y de potasio.

Bolivia contiene la primera reserva probada mundial de litio, de al menos 5.000 millones de toneladas.


Mitsubishi, Sumitomo Propose Lithium Joint Venture in Bolivia

Mitsubishi Corp. and Sumitomo Corp. are proposing a joint venture to mine the world’s largest lithium deposit, Bolivia’s mining minister said.

The Japanese companies, which previously submitted separate proposals to the Bolivian government, are seeking to work together to mine the untapped resource, Mining Minister Luis Alberto Echazu said yesterday in an interview in La Paz. Lithium is used to make batteries.

The companies face competition from a French group made up of Bollore SA and Eramet SA, which last month presented a proposal to President Evo Morales. The government is requiring that offers include a commitment to manufacture batteries in Bolivia, a condition both groups accept, Echazu said.

“We’re evaluating both” proposals, he said. “They’re all prepared to follow the mining policies of Bolivia.”

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, a salt flat located in Potosi province, has 5.4 million of the world’s 11 million metric tons of lithium reserves, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report. The Andean nation does not currently process or export lithium.

Echazu declined to provide details of the two proposals, saying they aren’t final.

Lacking Infrastructure

Bolivia lacks the infrastructure to produce, process and export lithium on its own, Echazu said. The country is South America’s second-poorest by per-capita income, according to the World Bank.

“We have to create the infrastructure,” he said. If companies “want everything to be ready when they get here, then they shouldn’t come.”

The Bolivian government is spending about $6 million to build an experimental lithium carbonate plant. Echazu said he expects the plant to be completed by year-end, and an industrial plant to produce lithium carbonate by the end of 2012.

The Bolivian government wants to sign a deal with private investors before the second plant is finished, Echazu said.

Jaime Cordoba, a spokesman at Mitsubishi’s branch in La Paz, declined to comment. Phones at Mitsubishi and Sumitomo’s Tokyo offices were not answered after normal business hours.


Bolivia’s Lithium Reserves Could Power Electric Car Boom

The auto industry is beginning to look to lithium batteries to power new models of hybrid cars. The new demand for lithium could be a boon for Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, which holds half of the world’s lithium reserves.

Lithium is a soft alkali metal found in rocks and sea water, and much of Bolivia’s commercially exploitable reserves are located in the brine under salt flats of the dazzling white Salar de Uyuni in central Potosi state. Last week, Planet Ark reported that the government will invest $6 million in a pilot plant to help it figure out the best way to mine lithium.

Lithium carbonate is already used in rechargeable laptop computer and mobile phone batteries because it can store more energy in a lighter, smaller space than most alternatives,

According to BBC News, several car companies are developing lithium batteries for new hybrid fleets. GM has one in its new hybrid Volt, while Toyota is testing one in its next generation hybrid Prius. Mercedes-Benz is testing an electric version of its Smart, while BMW is doing the same with its Mini. Nissan-Renault, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen are all rushing to buy or produce enough of the batteries for future models.

But like so many other metals that yield great profits for mining companies, there could be environmental costs with the lithium rush.

"It is…going to generate pollution, not just from fossil fuels but also from lithium plants, which produce sulphur dioxide," Luis Alberto Echazu, Bolivian minister for mining, told BBC News. "This isn’t a magic solution."


New World Receives Positive Report on the Pastos Grandes Lithium Potash Brine Project

New World Resource Corp. announces it has received a positive technical report on the brine samples from its Pastos Grandes Salar, Bolivia.

The Company commissioned Dr. Teresita Kullberg to evaluate historical Pastos Grande brine samples and to compare the results to known lithium (Li) brine deposits of South America. Dr. Kullberg holds a PhD in Inorganic/Physical Chemistry and has extensive background in lithium chemistry, having worked for FMC Lithium and Chemetall Foote Corporation for a total of 26 years. Her experience ranges from laboratory research and development to pilot plant to production. She worked directly on the Atacama Salar of Chile through Chemetall Foote’s subsidiary company Sociedad Chilena de Litio (SCL).

Excerpt from the Report entitled, ‘Salar de Pastos Grandes – Evaluation of Brine Samples’ dated April 12, 2009; As a quick estimate for assessing the feasibility of extraction, higher K/Mg and SO4/Mg ratios enhance the potash recovery from the preferred production method utilizing solar evaporation ponds. Moreover, lower Mg/Li and SO4/Li ratios facilitate lithium recovery.

"Preliminary conclusion from the data shows that the low Mg/Li ratio of 2.2 in the Pastos Grandes brine is very promising for a viable, profitable and economical Li recovery. Its brine composition mix with Li content greater than 1,000 ppm is competitive against the currently processed brines in Chile and Argentina. Additional investigation of this valuable lithium and potassium resource is recommended."

In conclusion the report states:

"The Salar de Pastos Grandes represents brine of excellent quality for lithium and potassium recovery. While it is much smaller in size compared with the Salar de Uyuni, its composition mixture of Li, Mg, Ca, K, SO4, may be easier to process economically. The Mg/Li ratio of 2.2 is less than the Atacama ratio of 6.4. Additional studies are recommended for the Salar de Pastos Grandes."

The Deal

The Joint Venture with Gonzalo Miranda Salles has a term of 20 years and the initial participation interests are 99% for the Company’s subsidiary, New World Bolivia S.A. ("New World Bolivia") and 1% for Gonzalo Miranda Salles. A US$10,000 payment was paid upon signing of the Joint Venture and the ‘Patentes Mineras’ payment to the government to keep the concession in good standing has been paid. The project concession size covers approximately 60 square kilometres and is located in the Sud Lipez Province, Department of Potosi within the Bolivian Altiplano.

Pastos Grandes Concession

The Bolivian Altiplano is host to many alkaline and saline lakes and salars including the Salar de Uyuni which hosts the world’s largest known lithium reserve. Pastos Grandes is located approximately 113 kilometres south southwest from Salar de Uyuni, within the same geological and geographical setting. This hyper saline lake/salar basin is surrounded by intermittent rivers and thermal springs discharging waters into the salar. The Pastos Grandes salar is elliptical in shape with the major axis of trending NW – SE and covers an area of almost 120 km2.

Quality Control and Assurance

Joan McCorquodale, P. Geo is the Company’s Vice President, Exploration and qualified person as required under NI 43 101 and has reviewed the technical information contained in this press release.

About New World

New World Resource Corp. is a Canadian based mining exploration company focused on building a strong, diversified project portfolio within the Americas.


High-Tech Lead-Acid Batteries for China’s Electric Scooters

Applied Intellectual Capital says its bipolar lead-acid batteries can outperform advanced lithium-ion batteries on power density and price, and it’s aiming at the Chinese electric scooter market to prove it.

Stephen Clarke thinks that lead-acid batteries have gotten a bum rap, and he wants to revive their fortunes via the $3 billion and growing Chinese electric scooter market.

Clarke is CEO of Applied Intellectual Capital, an Alameda, Calif.-based electrochemical technology development company that’s funded itself through consulting work and a number of spinouts since its 1994 founding.

Among its more recent projects, AIC is working on bipolar lead-acid batteries, a technology that he believes can easily outperform advanced lithium-ion batteries on power density – the amount of power it can deliver in a set period of time – as well as on price.

"Everything you think you know about lead-acid is wrong," Clarke said Thursday at the Opportunities in Grid-Connected Mobility conference in San Francisco.

That’s because the lead-acid batteries most people are familiar with – car batteries – are built as cheaply as possible, with a lifespan just long enough to outlast their warranty, he said.

They’re also monopolar batteries, the design that still makes up the vast majority of most types of batteries now available today, he said. Monopolar batteries consist of a number of plates stacked in serially coupled negative and positive electrodes and connected by current collectors. This results in a high resistance current path and unnecessary weight, he said.

But AIC’s lead-acid batteries are bipolar, meaning that the cells within are stacked in a sandwich construction that utilizes the materials within more thoroughly, he said. That cuts internal resistance a hundred-fold and halves the weight required for the same performance, he said.

Other companies, such as Firefly Energy and Atraverda (where Clarke once worked), are seeking to improve lead-acid batteries. Johnson Controls and Volvo spinout Effpower has been working on bipolar lead-acid batteries.

The problem for bipolar batteries so far has been stability, Clarke said. That is, they tend to have shorter cycle lives than monopolar batteries. AIC has overcome that problem, Clarke said, though he wouldn’t reveal just how.

Proof may come in the coming months, when AIC intends to launch a joint venture with an unnamed Chinese company to start manufacturing its bipolar lead-acid batteries for what Clarke called "the world’s biggest electric vehicle fleet that no one has heard of" – the 60 million or so electric scooters and bicycles populating China’s roadways.

With a typical top speed of 40 miles per hour and ranges of 30 to 40 miles, these aren’t the fanciest of vehicles. But with an average price of $800 and a charging cost of about 25 cents per day, they’re economical – and China’s government has made a big push to see them replace the two-stroke gasoline engines that have played a role in polluting the country’s air, he said.

Clarke estimated the battery market for those scooters at $3 billion a year and growing about 15 percent annually. He also said he can supply those batteries at about $70 apiece, compared to the $650 or so he said a comparable performance lithium-ion battery would cost.

Given all the other components that make up a complete battery, he said the weight difference between heavy lead and light lithium wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

An emerging battery market for which weight is far less important is for storing energy on the electricity grid, he said, and AIC is hoping to target that market as well.

Lead-acid batteries have been used by utilities for more than a century, but their lower energy density and short cycle life have kept them from wide-scale use, according to a September report by the Electric Power Research Institute.

Clarke disputed that, saying AIC’s bipolar design does away with the energy density drawbacks of lead acid batteries. As for cycle life, he cited a lead-acid grid storage battery from Exide Technologies that lasted three years beyond its eight-year projected lifespan – with five years still left in it.