South Korea to help Bolivia develop its vast lithium resources

According to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, 13 South Korean companies and state-run research institutes, including GS Caltex Corp., POSCO, Korea Resources Corp., and the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, will set up joint research projects aimed at creating the most suitable infrastructure for Bolivia to develop its lithium industry.

“The Bolivian government doesn’t want a foreign country to extract lithium just for export,” said Kim Sang-woo, a deputy director at the ministry’s mineral resource team. “It also wants lithium to be used by industries in Bolivia.” Kim said the Korean government is considering building a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Bolivia.

Expected to be completed by this August, the government and the private sector will invest a combined 100 million won (89,600 U.S. dollars) to this project, which is an extension of the two cooperative memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreements signed between the two countries last year, the ministry added.

"Lithium resources are becoming a vital part of the future development of information technology (IT) and electric vehicles, and it is imperative to come up with a proper plan that suits Bolivia’s needs," the ministry said in a statement.

More than half of the world’s lithium reserves are stored in Bolivia, and a number of countries, including Brazil and Japan, have been working vehemently to secure larger shares of the South American country’s lithium resources.

Lithium resources are capable of storing more electrical energy in smaller spaces than other minerals, and are widely used in laptop computers, digital cameras, mobile phones, as well as electric cars and hybrid vehicles.