On October 11, Bolivia’s Mining Minister Jose Pimentel stated that Bolivia plans to start production of lithium carbonate and potassium chloride for export this month, and expects a finalized product by January or February.[i]However, it is unlikely that Bolivia’s lithium carbonate will be available on the international market in the near future.
At an isolated pilot plant, Bolivian and international scientists have been working to develop a process to separate lithium from other minerals present in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flats. The unique climatic conditions and mineral concentration of the Salar present special challenges, and it is unclear whether the extraction process has been perfected. Between October and March the region receives significant rainfall, which could negatively affect evaporation and separation. This separation process can take up to 18 months, even without foreseeable rainy season delays.[ii] Furthermore, a successful trial run at the pilot plant would represent the first time lithium carbonate has been produced outside a laboratory in Bolivia.