Emirati firm to inject $550 million into Argentine lithium venture

Scarlet Ibarra / April 22, 2024 | 10:51
Emirati engineering firm United Mining Projects Corporation (UMPC), operating through its subsidiary Marhen Lithium, has disclosed a substantial $550-million, four-year investment plan in Argentina's northwestern Catamarca province.

According to a press release, UMPC stated that after two years of negotiations involving the Catamarca government and a consortium of foreign entities, an agreement has been reached to commence exploration and development activities at the Rio Grande Sur lithium brine salar project.

Situated across 9,000 hectares in Catamarca's northwest, Rio Grande Sur is poised for transformation. The $550 million earmarked for this endeavor will facilitate infrastructure construction, metal extraction, and processing. Anticipated to yield 700 jobs during construction and maintain 200 during production, the project is forecasted to inject $168 million into the local economy.

Catamarca, the premier lithium-producing province in Argentina, yields 20,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) annually, housing the bulk of the nation's exploration ventures. Neighboring Salta and Jujuy boast significant lithium reserves and form part of the Lithium Table, an initiative aiming to standardize sustainable extraction practices.

Argentina ranks as the world's fourth-largest lithium producer, generating 34,000 tonnes of LCE per year. Exports surged to over $500 million in 2023, marking an 84% year-on-year increase. With five projects nearing completion and 30 advanced exploration ventures in the pipeline, Argentina is poised for further growth in lithium production.

Projections suggest Argentina could reach an annual LCE output of 260,000 tonnes by 2027, solidifying its position as the world's third-largest player. Together with Chile and Bolivia, Argentina forms the Lithium Triangle, home to over half of global lithium reserves, nestled amidst high-altitude terrain adorned with lakes and salt flats.

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