A large discovery of lithium in Peru by Plateau Energy Metals, a Canadian lithium and uranium exploration and development company, could prove to be a boon for the South American country as global demand for the metal is projected to grow.
Reuters reports that the Macusani Yellowcake unit of Plateau Energy Metals said it found 2.5 million tonnes of high-grade lithium and 124 million pounds of uranium.
Ulises Solis, general manager of the Macusani Yellowcake unit, said in a news conference that a planned feasibility study in 2019 would reveal how much of the metal deposits would be economically viable.
Laurence Stefan, president and director of operations of the Macusani Yellowcake unit, believes that Peru could start exporting US$ 500 million worth of lithium carbonate per year by 2021, according to Andina.
Pointing out that 90 percent of lithium refineries are located in China, Stefan said that Peru has an opportunity to build lithium refineries and eventually battery and electric car factories.
Peru has not been a consistent exporter of significant quantities of lithium carbonate. According to trade data from UN COMTRADE, Spain imported US$ 1,234 worth of lithium carbonate from Peru in 2017. China imported US$ 654,675 in 2013, US$ 654,150 in 2014, and US$ 110,250 in 2015.
Lithium is the key component in the rechargeable batteries that power modern technology ranging from smartphones to electric cars. As demand for these and other consumer goods grows, countries with significant lithium deposits will be able to cash in.
According to International Lithium Corp., worldwide lithium reserves are estimated to be around 23 million tonnes with a significant amount located in South America.
“Deposits of lithium are found in South America throughout the Andes mountain chain. Chile is the leading lithium producer, followed by Argentina. Both countries recover the lithium from brine pools… However, half the world’s known reserves are located in Bolivia, a nation sitting along the central eastern slope of the Andes… According to the US Geological Survey, Bolivia’s Uyuni Desert has 5.4 million tonnes of lithium.”