SALTA, Argentina, September 14 (Hfrance.fr) - In the remote province of Salta in northern Argentina, the silence landscape dEsertic is only broken by the hum of machines pumping salt-water brine to extract lithium, a sign of accelerating efforts to ride the global electric vehicle boom.
Under the salt marshes of the highlands of the South American country, reached by winding mountain roads, is buried the world's third largest reserve of ultra-battery l lightweight, which has seen prices spike over the past year following a global push towards greener modes of transportation.
Already the world's fourth largest producer of lithium, Argentina's national and local governments are now seeking to accelerate development, held back for years by bureaucracy, high taxes, rampant inflation and currency controls.
Provinces like Salta build logistics nodes miniers regional and access ess routes, lower tax rates and streamline confusing rules for the sector in order to attract investment in the l 'white gold '.
This has seen a wave of new activities, agreements and production ramp-up plans, which could make Argentina a key player in the electric vehicle supply chain in the coming years, demand from automakers and buyers like China is expected to accelerate.
"Argentina could become the world's leading producer of brines in less than a decade if project flow is tracked and sustained, "David Guerrero Alvarado, a consultant advising Canada 's Alpha Lithium (ALLI.V) , told Hfrance.fr in Salta.
Alpha Lithium est at the stage of investigation for a project in the neighboring Salar Tolillar, one of many early-stage developments which, while offering promise - often need a long and expensive process to turn into reality .
With countries around the world scrambling to reduce emissions, growing global demand for lithium and soaring prices have sparked increased interest in the so-called 'lithium triangle ' which
En Argentina, mining provinces such as Salta, Jujuy and Catamarca have moved to encourage suspicious investors, signing a agreement in June to create uniform rules and to " strengthen infrastructure, legal certainty and fiscal stability. "
SSalta Mines and Energy Secretary Flavia Royon told Hfrance.fr that the province could produce 200,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent per year by 2025, after going through a list of upcoming lithium developments.
This would be a huge boost, equivalent to about one-fifth of global production expected that year.
"There is interest in Salta and it is the Argentine province with the most lithium projects going on, ", a-t she said.
The country's CMEA mining chamber predicts a nationwide drop of 175,000 tonnes by 2025, on an estimate of 38,800 tonnes this year. But - with lithium projects often taking years to ramp up - this remains a noble goal.
FUELS OF THE FUTURE
Argentina's center-left government has made a conscious and strategic push towards lithium. Last year it reduced taxes on all mining exports to 8% from 12% and in April relaxed capital controls on companies that withdraw foreign currency from the country for projects with investments of more than $ 100 million. He supported the public energy company YPF (YPFD.BA) to create a lithium battery factory and push a bill to reduce taxes on electric cars.
An employee walks at the Ri ncon Mining Lithium Pilot Plant, in the Salar del Rincon Salt Flats, Salta, Argentina on August 12, 2021. Photo taken on August 12, 2021 . Hfrance.fr/Agustin Marcarian
"We are going to focus on the fields and fuels of the future, which do not generate any polluting emissions, which are essentially hydrogen and lithium batteries, "Production Minister Matias Kulfas said at a recent meeting with journalists in Buenos Aires.
A source at the central bank, which is keen to replenish struggling currency reserves, said the country had seen growing investor interest in mining, including lithium.
Orocobre Ltd from Australie (ORE.AX) and the American miner Livent Corp (LTHM .N) , which have ti e-ups with Toyota Corp (7203.T) and BMW (BMWG.DE) respectively, operate the two lithium production projects in Argentina out of a total of more than 60 projects proposed at
Others in the country include Australia 's Argosy Minerals (AGY.AX) , Lake Resources (LKE.AX) and Greenwing Resources (GW1. AX) , as well as Posco from South Korea (005490.KS) and Neo Lithium Corp (NLC.V) , supported by CATL of China (300750.SZ) .
Ganfeng Lithium Co Ltd of China (002460.SZ) is in a bidding war to buy Millennial Lithium Corp, an Argentinian company (ML.V) after an anonymous battery manufacturer made a competing offer toits offer of $ 280 million.
Ganfeng and Lithium Americas (LAC.TO) aim to produce some 40,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent from the Cauchari-Olaroz mine, with a start-up of production in 2022.
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'UNSTABLE MACROECONOMY '
However, doubts remain about the Argentina 's ability to increase its lithium production as it has promised. Five years ago, under a pro-business government, the country was expressing ambitions to overtake the biggest Chilean producer but did not succeed.
"Argentina has the resources, but to turn them into reserves and make plans ... a set of clear and stable rules is needed " , said Natacha Izquierdo, analyst based in Buenos Aires atu consulting firm Abeceb.
Alejandro Moro, Managing Director of Rincon Lithium, an Australian company which owns a concession on the Rincon salt works in Salta, agreed that there were still obstacles to attracting capital.
"It 'sa country with a rather unstable macroeconomy, with a high degree of taxes that are taxed on the capital that comes to invest, "he said.
The company operates a pilot plant on the apartments, near 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) above sea level. It pumps brine through pipes 30 meters underground, which is then refined to produce lithium carbonate. Rincon hopes to extract 50,000 tonnes per year by 2025.
Despite his reservations, Moro said he had become more optimistic about the support from Argentina to mining investments aps having met with senior officials a few weeks earlier.
Argentina, an oilseed-rich agricultural powerhouse, for years focused energy subsidies on biofuels, but officials are now signaling a shift in priorities towards electric vehicles - and lithium.
"Certainly, lithium will replace biofuels "said Moro.
Hfrance.fr Graphics Reportage from Agustin Geist to Salta; Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath, Miguel Lo Bianco and Hernan Nessi in Buenos Aires; Writing by Nicolas Misculin; Edited by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O 'Brien
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