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ECONOMY | 03-06-2024 10:56

China’s CNGR looks to snap up more lithium projects in Argentina

Chinese battery-component maker looking to buy major stakes in Argentina brine deposits to extend its foray into the lithium-rich region.

CNGR Advanced Material Co, a Chinese battery-component maker and Tesla Inc supplier, is looking to buy major stakes in Argentina brine deposits to extend its foray into the lithium-rich region as it builds its own supply chain outside the Asian nation.

Senior CNGR executives visited at least three deposits in Argentina last week, according to people familiar with the matter. Those include the Jama project in Jujuy Province and the Rincón project in Salta Province, said one of the people, who asked not to be named as the information isn’t public.

CNGR is building an upstream lithium supply chain to serve customers in the western world, just as the United States and allies are stepping up efforts to decouple from China’s global dominance over battery metals. The firm partnered with African private investment fund Al Mada in September to build an industrial base in Morocco and bought a 90-percent stake in Lithium Energy Ltd’s Solaroz Lithium brine project in Argentina for US$63 million in April.

The structure of CNGR’s investment will be similar to the one it made in April, according to the people. CNGR declined to comment when contacted by phone. 

Prices of lithium — a key metal in electric-vehicle batteries — have fallen more than 80 percent from a late-2022 record as the market whipsawed from shortage fears to a supply glut. That has happened amid a growing backlash against EVs in some markets. Lithium’s collapse is creating havoc among producers, with stalled projects, scrapped deals and output cuts. Still, analysts have said low prices may create opportunities for acquisitions.

Argentina has the world’s third-largest lithium reserves after Chile and Australia, but the country has long struggled to lure the consistent, hefty international capital flows needed for mass development of oil, natural gas, gold and silver locked underground.

by Yvonne Yue Li & Annie Lee, Bloomberg

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