German lithium importer calls on government to help in row with Bolivia
Clean Energy Wire / Spiegel Online
German lithium importer ACISA has called on the German government to provide assistance in a row with Bolivia's government, following the latter's annulation of a mining deal meant to provide the German car industry with raw materials for e-car battery production. "We won't just give up on this project," ACISA head Wolfgang Schmutz told the news website Spiegel Online, adding that policymakers like economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier now need to find a solution. Schmutz said his company still had not received any formal note on the annulment of the contract with the state-owned Bolivian YLB group that Bolivia's President Evo Morales announced on 3 November, adding that "I thought I must be mistaken" when he first heard of the decision on the radio. Schmutz said "legally binding" contracts had been made with YLB but added that his company had no interest in fighting the case out in court. "I hope the politicians that backed us in the past won't just disappear now," Schmutz said, stressing that a secure lithium supply is "the basis" for Germany's energy transition and e-mobility plans.
Bolivia's government did not immediately release any reasons for the contract's annulment but according to media reports reacted to protests in the Potosi region, where mining is due to take place in the Salar de Uyuni lithium reservoir. People there reportedly complained the deal would not let the region partake sufficiently of the profits made with lithium mining. ACISA and YLB signed the contract in December 2018 and agreed on investments of at least 300 million euros by the German firm to start mining operations by 2022.
Germany's carmakers and the government both have announced plans to boost the number of e-cars in the country over the next decade, aiming to have up to 10 million e-cars on the road by 2030. Moreover, economy minister Altmaier has repeatedly urged that Europe needs to become less reliant on Asian battery manufacturers and must build up its own battery production. Lithium is a key resource for the currently dominannt lithium-ion battery technology.