Japan to Cooperate on Bolivian Lithium

Source:

"Morales reiterated that Bolivia wants 1partners not owners.'"

Japan and Bolivia agreed to cooperate on the development of large-scale lithium reserves in the Andean nation, while an electricity project will see a resumption of lending to Bolivia for the first time since Tokyo forgave La Paz's debt in 2006.

Bolivian President Evo Morales concluded his second official visit to Japan on Wednesday with a meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan. In a joint statement, the two leaders agreed to cooperate on the development of a lithium industry at Bolivia's massive Uyuni Salt Flats and on construction of a geothermal power plant, both in the southwestern province of Potosi.

The Laguna Colorada plant is to be built thanks to a Japanese loan, the first such credit since Japan forgave the Andean nation's foreign debt four years ago, Morales said.

The yen-denominated loan will enable construction of a 50 MW plant, according to the statement, which said the power station's capacity could later be expanded by another 50 MW.

Bolivia is said to hold more than half of the world's lithium reserves, while Morales puts that figure at 70%.

On Wednesday, Japanese Economy Minister Akihiro Ohata offered technological cooperation with Bolivia's nascent lithium industry in exchange for assurances of a steady supply of the world's lightest metal to the Asian nation.

Morales, who for months has listened to offers from various countries interested in Bolivia's lithium reserves, reiterated during a press conference in Tokyo that Bolivia wants "partners not owners."

The socialist president is adamant that potential partners must present plans for factories in the Andean nation to manufacture lithium-ion batteries and even electric vehicles, as opposed to merely carrying away raw lithium carbonate.

Morales praised Japan and said it "could be an excellent partner," considering his government's experience with automotive giants Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi.

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