Bolivia’s expansive Salar de Uyuni salt flat is the largest in the world, its barren landscape a popular tourist attraction.  But as nations across the globe have begun to focus on producing electric powered automobiles, the salt flat has become of extreme interest for what’s below the salty crust: Lithium. The Salar de Uyuni is estimated to hold at least half the world’s reserves of the most important metal needed to power a new generation of transportation. 

In our research, we found that CNN/ITN, ABC News, McClatchy, The New York Times, World Focus and Al Jazeera English provided differing perspectives on Bolivia’s management of their valuable resource. 

A report aired on CNN produced by ITN highlights the pressures Bolivia has suddenly come under. 

“International competition for the Lithium beneath this salt crust is intense. Companies from France, South Korea, Japan, they all want to get involved, but the Bolivian government is keeping everyone at arms length until they’ve understood this process because that’s the way they say they’ll get the best bargain.” 

The so-called Saudi Arabia of lithium, Bolivia is determined to not allow the resource be stripped from the country as it begins building its own lithium refinery plant on the flats.  As ABC News reports, Bolivia’s past is influencing its current course. 

“Bolivia is accepting technical advice, but the leftist government here is weary of foreign corporations.  That is because Bolivia has seen its resources, the largest silver mine in the world, abundant gas and oil, exploited by foreigners for centuries, and yet it remains the poorest country in South America.  The project manager says this time Bolivia is determined to benefit from the riches it holds.”   

Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has nationalized the lithium industry just as he did Bolivia’s oil and gas industries.  Such decisions make investors nervous, and as Bolivia’s former minister of mining pointed out in a story by McClatchy, these decisions are might not the best for the country. 

"The state is never a good operator of any industrial operation," Arteaga said. "It will be run by inefficient and unqualified people."

From The New York Times, we learn that this nationalization effort to refine and produce lithium products within the country might already be costing Bolivia in the market place. 

“As Bolivia ponders how to tap its lithium, nations with smaller reserves are stepping up. China has emerged as a top lithium producer, tapping reserves found in a Tibetan salt flat.”

However, a World Focus report unveils that China and other lithium producers like Chile might not be Bolivia’s competition in the future. 

“It’s been reported that Bolivia has been in talks with China and Chile, two other big lithium producers, about forming a so called-lithium cartel modeled on OPEC.  That’s led to concerns about price hikes and embargoes aimed at the United States.  Mining official Raul Viellas told us there haven’t been any talks so far, but didn’t rule them out in the future.” 

Although progress has been slow, an Al Jazeerah English interview shows that Bolivian’s are happy with their president’s decisions and relying heavily on the industry’s success. 

“And people in this town not far away from where the pilot plant has been set support the government’s plan. We want lithium to be industrialized here.  We want it to generate jobs.  We need electricity and gas, and other things.”  

How should Bolivia handle its stockpile of lithium? Is it hurting itself by not working with foreign corporations?

Bolivia's New Oil

by
0
Transcript
Aug 19, 2009

Bolivia's New Oil

Bolivia’s expansive Salar de Uyuni salt flat is the largest in the world, its barren landscape a popular tourist attraction.  But as nations across the globe have begun to focus on producing electric powered automobiles, the salt flat has become of extreme interest for what’s below the salty crust: Lithium. The Salar de Uyuni is estimated to hold at least half the world’s reserves of the most important metal needed to power a new generation of transportation. 

In our research, we found that CNN/ITN, ABC News, McClatchy, The New York Times, World Focus and Al Jazeera English provided differing perspectives on Bolivia’s management of their valuable resource. 

A report aired on CNN produced by ITN highlights the pressures Bolivia has suddenly come under. 

“International competition for the Lithium beneath this salt crust is intense. Companies from France, South Korea, Japan, they all want to get involved, but the Bolivian government is keeping everyone at arms length until they’ve understood this process because that’s the way they say they’ll get the best bargain.” 

The so-called Saudi Arabia of lithium, Bolivia is determined to not allow the resource be stripped from the country as it begins building its own lithium refinery plant on the flats.  As ABC News reports, Bolivia’s past is influencing its current course. 

“Bolivia is accepting technical advice, but the leftist government here is weary of foreign corporations.  That is because Bolivia has seen its resources, the largest silver mine in the world, abundant gas and oil, exploited by foreigners for centuries, and yet it remains the poorest country in South America.  The project manager says this time Bolivia is determined to benefit from the riches it holds.”   

Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has nationalized the lithium industry just as he did Bolivia’s oil and gas industries.  Such decisions make investors nervous, and as Bolivia’s former minister of mining pointed out in a story by McClatchy, these decisions are might not the best for the country. 

"The state is never a good operator of any industrial operation," Arteaga said. "It will be run by inefficient and unqualified people."

From The New York Times, we learn that this nationalization effort to refine and produce lithium products within the country might already be costing Bolivia in the market place. 

“As Bolivia ponders how to tap its lithium, nations with smaller reserves are stepping up. China has emerged as a top lithium producer, tapping reserves found in a Tibetan salt flat.”

However, a World Focus report unveils that China and other lithium producers like Chile might not be Bolivia’s competition in the future. 

“It’s been reported that Bolivia has been in talks with China and Chile, two other big lithium producers, about forming a so called-lithium cartel modeled on OPEC.  That’s led to concerns about price hikes and embargoes aimed at the United States.  Mining official Raul Viellas told us there haven’t been any talks so far, but didn’t rule them out in the future.” 

Although progress has been slow, an Al Jazeerah English interview shows that Bolivian’s are happy with their president’s decisions and relying heavily on the industry’s success. 

“And people in this town not far away from where the pilot plant has been set support the government’s plan. We want lithium to be industrialized here.  We want it to generate jobs.  We need electricity and gas, and other things.”  

How should Bolivia handle its stockpile of lithium? Is it hurting itself by not working with foreign corporations?

View More
Comments
Newsy
www1