Mining firms commit $290 million to lithium exploration and development in Argentina

Argentina’s Minister of Industry Daniel Scioli has announced that the mining companies Ultra Argentina SRL and Zangge Mining will invest US$290 million in the country’s lithium mining industry.

China’s Zangge Mining will initially invest $40 million in the exploration and development of the Laguna Verde lithium project in the Northwestern Province of Catamarca. A further $250 million investment is planned at a later stage for the construction of a lithium carbonate processing plant in the region.

Zangge signed a definitive association agreement for the Laguna Verde project with Ultra Lithium in June 2021. As part of the deal, Zangge agreed to pay Ultra Lithium $10 million and invest $40 million in the project for a 65% stake in Ultra Argentina, a 100%-owned subsidiary of Ultra Lithium.

Through the partnership, both companies are seeking to profit from Argentina’s rich lithium resources, located within the ‘lithium triangle’ of South America. The region, shared with neighbouring Chile and Bolivia, contains nearly 56% of the world’s resources of the metal, according to recent figures from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The Argentine government hopes to receive a $4.2 billion combined investment in its growing lithium market over the next five years, which would help double production in 2023, reaching 175,000 tonnes of the battery metal in 2025.

A number of international corporations have already been attracted to the lithium opportunities in Argentina, including Rio Tinto and South Korean Steelmaker POSCO. Australia’s Orocobre and US miner Livent Corp operate the two currently producing lithium mines in the country. The total number of lithium projects under various stages of development in Argentina is 23.