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Bolivian state lithium company eyes tighter foreign investment rules for sector

The new head of Bolivian state-owned lithium company YLB said the company intends to impose strict limits on foreign investment in extraction and processing the metal, Reuters reported Jan. 15.

CEO Juan Carlos Zuleta said he will seek to strengthen local understanding of the industry and work with external expert advisers, rather than striking deals in the short-term that may allow overseas companies with more advanced expertise to come in and help ramp-up extraction.

"It is important for the international community to know that Bolivian law says lithium should be extracted and processed by Bolivians," the executive was quoted as saying.

Zuleta said a deal with German company ACI Systems that was aborted in 2019 would remain shelved, while another deal with Chinese partner Xinjiang TBEA is being reviewed.

The deal with the Chinese company refers to a 15,000-tonne capacity lithium plant, which Zuleta said should be completed by the end of the year and ramp up to full production one to two years after that.

"I guess if everything happens in the manner we are hoping it will happen we could be reaching the goal to produce around 50,000 metric tonnes in the next five years," Zuleta added,

Zuleta also referenced increasing electric vehicle usage as a positive for the company but said uncertainties continue around the results of fresh elections in the country slated for May 3.