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Bolivia and ACISA found joint venture to extract and industrialize lithium from residual brine; €300M investment

Bolivian state-owned company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) and the German company ACI Systems Alemania GmbH (ACISA) have formed a joint venture: YLB-ACISA. The aim of the JV is the sustainable extraction and industrialization of lithium as well as other raw materials from Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt lake.

As part of this joint venture, lithium hydroxide is to be extracted from residual brine from existing evaporation basins, which were constructed for the production of potassium chloride and lithium carbonate.

With previous technologies, the residual brine could not be used for anything else and therefore had to be discarded. With ACISA’s innovative process, the brine can now be utilized to produce lithium hydroxide profitably with a high lithium yield that is suitable for use in batteries.

There is a plan to establish a further joint venture to manufacture cathode material and battery systems in Bolivia and Germany.

Bolivia holds 51% of the shares in the JV through YLB. The start of production of lithium as a raw material is scheduled for the second half of 2021. By the end of 2022, an annual production capacity of 35,000 to 40,000 tons of lithium hydroxide is targeted.

On the basis of a feasibility study, investments for this project currently amount to approximately €300 million. There are plans to further expand capacity.

Together with partner companies, in particular K-UTEC AG Salt Technologies, ACISA developed a process enabling a high lithium hydroxide yield to be obtained from residual brine with a high magnesium content. At the same time, the innovative process cuts water consumption by around half compared with the technologies used to date.

In order to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, 20 to 30% of the plant’s energy requirements will be provided by its own photovoltaic system at Salar de Uyuni. These technologies make a significant contribution to the sustainable and cost-efficient extraction of this raw material. In addition to lithium, other raw materials important for industrial use are also extracted from the residual brine, thus reducing waste to a minimum.

ACI Systems Alemania is a member of the ACI Group based in Zimmern ob Rottweil in Germany. The group of companies develops innovative and sustainable manufacturing solutions for the photovoltaic, battery and automotive industries. This includes applications for the manufacture of battery systems, energy storage systems and generators for electromobility, solar power plants, as well as the extraction of raw materials for these sectors.

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