Argentina says Chinese miner latest to bet big on lithium riches

<html xmlns=""><head><title>UPDATE 2-Argentina says Chinese miner latest to bet big on lithium riches</title></head><body>

Adds details on lithium projects, expected output growth

By Lucila Sigal

BUENOS AIRES, May 31 (Reuters) -Chinese minerTibet Summit Resources will invest $1.7 billion to develop twolithium projects in Argentina, the economy ministry said onWednesday, as the South American country eyes burgeoning demand for the metal used in rechargeable batteries.

The projects in the Arizaro and Diablillossalt flats in Saltaprovince are expected to produce50,000-100,000 tonnes of lithium, the ministry noted in a statement, without elaborating or saying when they would come online.

Tibet Summit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Argentina is the world's fourth largest producer of lithium, an ultra-light metal in high demand from makers of electric vehicles.

"We want a mining industry that takes advantage of our resources and generates added value and employment," said EconomyMinister Sergio Massa in the statement.

Massa is visitingChina, where he met with executives from Tibet Summit.

Last year, Argentina exported around 40,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate, a processed product used in lithium-ion batteries. The country's growing lithium sector expects to triple shipments in the next few years.

The growth is expected largely due to two lithium projects ramping up production in Jujuy province in Argentina's arid northwest. One is operated by U.S.-based Livent Corp LTHM.N in Catamarca province and the other by Australia's Allkem AKE.AX.

The two companies expect to double their current output to about 42,500 tonnes of lithium carbonate each in the next few years, government data show.

Another major lithium project, Cauchari-Olaroz, is expected to come online in June, operated by local firm Exar, which is run by Canada's Lithium Americas Corp LAC.TO, China's Ganfeng Lithium 002460.SZ and state producer JEMSE.

Exar expects to ramp up lithium carbonate production to around 40,000 tonnes annually beginning next year.

Reporting by Lucila Sigal; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Richard Chang


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