Argentina’s State-Owned Miners Venture into Lithium for the First Time

Units of Argentina’s state-run oil company YPF will begin lithium exploration next month, marking the first time entry into the lithium sector by state-run miners. The Argentinian government has been looking to benefit from surging demand for the battery metal, the prices of which have soared this year, reaching past $70,000 per tonne as major automakers have accelerated efforts to secure supplies in a bid to boost production of electric vehicles (EVs).

YPF’s lithium units, YPF Litio and Y-TEC, announced on Monday the start of work on a 20,000-hectare lithium prospecting project in the Catamarca province, with partnership from local mining company Catamarca Minera y Energetica. The project aims to identify the highest lithium concentrations in Fiambala salt flats.

YPF’s statement did not reveal how much they would invest in the project or the expected duration of the exploration phase.

Argentina is the world’s fourth largest producer of lithium and there are currently 20 other projects under development, all of which are run by foreign or private miners. This will be the first time a national company to have a presence in obtaining lithium.

Argentina produces around 8% of global lithium, with neighboring Chile accounting for about 22%.

Argentina could significantly grow its lithium production given its status as having the world’s second largest lithium reserves, with 19.3 million tonnes.

Only Bolivia holds more at 21 million tonnes, though it has for years struggled to get its state-run production off the ground.

The three South American countries; Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, account for more than half of estimated global reserves, mostly held in salt flats.

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