Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), a Chinese battery manufacturer and technology company, said that it will invest $1.4bn to develop two lithium extraction plants in Bolivia.

To be built in the Uyuni and Coipasa salt flats of the country, the plants will be equipped with direct extraction of lithium (EDL) technology.

CATL aims to develop Bolivia’s huge but mostly unexploited reserves of lithium, reported Reuters.

Construction of both lithium extraction plants may commence as early as July 2023, said the news agency, citing Bolivia Energy Ministry.

Bolivia President Luis Arce tweeted: “We met with Burton Roy (Yu Bo), CEO of the Investment Committee of the CATL company to confirm the investment of $us1,400 million in the construction of two industrial plants with EDL technology (direct lithium extraction) in the Uyuni and Coipasa salt flats.”

Arce also said that the government will analyse the progress of these two projects as well as the possibility of increasing investments to advance more efficiently and optimise production until 2028.

The lithium extraction plants are projected to produce nearly 200,000 tonnes of lithium per year in the initial phase of their operation.

The overall investment in the project is expected to rise to $9.92bn during its industrial process.

CATL’s investment plan comes after the agreement signed between Bolivia, through Yacimientos del Litio Bolivianos (YLB), and CATL BRUNP and CMOC (CBC).

As per the US Geological Survey, lithium resources in Bolivia’s salt flats are projected to be 21 million metric tonnes although there is hardly any industrial production or commercially feasible reserves, said the news agency.