(La Paz) China and Russia will invest 1.4 billion dollars to open two lithium mines in Bolivia, the government of the South American country announced on Thursday, which has large quantities of this metal necessary for car batteries electrical.

The Chinese company Citic Guoan and the Russian Uranium One Group, two groups with strong state participation, will join forces with the public company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) to build two lithium carbonate production plants, indicated President of Bolivia, Luis Arce, at a public event.

According to the plan revealed by the government, Uranium One Group will put 578 million dollars (532 million euros) on the table for a factory in the salt desert of Pastos Grandes, and Citic Guoan will invest 857 million (789 million euros). euros) for a similar project in Uyuni. Both sites are in the department of Potosi (southwest).

The Bolivian Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy claimed that “each complex will have a production capacity of 25,000 metric tons per year”. Construction will start within three months.

Representatives of the three parties were present on Thursday when the contract was signed.

In January, the Bolivian government had signed another agreement with the Chinese consortium CBC for two lithium battery factories, worth at least a billion dollars (920 million euros).

Lithium is an essential metal for making batteries for electric or hybrid vehicles, or other types of energy storage systems. It has become a strategic resource in the face of the need to make the automotive sector more ecological, although the recycling of used batteries still raises questions.

Bolivia estimates the quantities of lithium available in the Uyuni salt desert at 21 million tonnes and claims that it is the largest deposit in the world.

However, the South American country is struggling to exploit its immense reserves for geographical and topographical reasons, but also because of political tensions and a lack of know-how.

The Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy said in January it expects to export $5 billion worth of lithium by 2025, which would exceed revenues generated by natural gas, Bolivia’s biggest source of revenue in 2022 with $3.4 billion.