South Korea, Bolivia sign lithium development deal

South Korea and Bolivia signed a deal Thursday to develop coveted lithium resources in the South American country, which boasts nearly half the world’s known reserves.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales discussed ways to "enhance substantive cooperation" in various fields, including mineral resources development and trade.

"President Lee expressed appreciation for President Morales’s interest in and support for participation by Korean businesses in the development of lithium mines in Bolivia and research in its industrialization," a statement read.

After the talks, both countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the research and development of lithium at Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats. Bolivia has the world’s largest untapped lithium deposits.

Lithium is used in rechargeable batteries for laptop computers, mobile phones and electric vehicles. South Korea depends on imports for almost all its energy and minerals needs.

South Korea plans to lend 250 million US dollars under the auspices of the Economic Development Cooperation Fund to the Latin American state from 2010 to 2014.

The deal between state-run Korea Resources Corp and its Bolivian counterpart was signed during a meeting between South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and Bolivian President Evo Morales, Lee’s office said.

The deal will allow South Korean firms to participate in a project to develop and industrialise "evaporation resources" in the world’s largest salt flat in southern Bolivia.

In a separate meeting with business leaders, Morales urged South Korean companies to invest in developing Bolivia’s natural resources. Bolivia has plenty of natural resources like crude oil, natural gas and lithium, but has no ability to industrialise them, he said.