French mining group Eramet said Monday it was reviving a joint project with China's Tsingshan to build a lithium production plant in the north of Argentina to supply the booming electric car industry.
Construction will begin next year on a deposit in the northwestern province of Salta, with the facility set to open in 2024, said Emaret chief executive Christel Bories.
The plant is expected to meet 15 percent of Europe's lithium needs, Bories told reporters in a conference call, confirming that building would get underway in the first quarter of 2022.
Eramet is already collaborating with Tsingshan in Indonesia for the extraction of nickel, said the Eramet executive. "Partnering with Tsingshan that we know well allows us to go faster," she added.
The Chinese steel group will pay US$375 million for the construction of the plant and own a 49.9 percent stake. Eramet, which owns the rights to the mountain deposit, will put up US$25 million and hold a 50.1 percent share.
The project was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. It is part of Eramet's strategy to become a major player in metals needed for the world's energy transition. Lithium is a key component for electric car batteries.
Bories said the lithium market is expected to grow from 350,000 tonnes per year today to two million tonnes by 2030.
"There is currently a lithium shortage," she said.
"The transition needs many metals for the storage and transport of electricity, Seventy-five percent of the vehicles produced in Europe will be electric by 2030 and 40 percent in the rest of the world," said Bories.
The plant in Argentina is expected to produce 24,000 tonnes of lithium per year.
by Isabel Malsang, AFP