Peru
Q&A

Peru's take on the future of lithium

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, September 22, 2022
Peru's take on the future of lithium

Peru, like its peers in the region, hopes to join the lithium 'wave' and take advantage of the opportunities in the global energy transition. 

Specialists in the sector say lithium mining will be subject to very high standards of environmental management, especially given their proximity to uranium deposits.

Lithium deposits have been found in Puno region – such as the early stage Falchani project of American Lithium subsidiary Macusani Yellowcake – and authorities are working on a regulatory framework to guarantee its development.

BNamericas spoke with Walter Sánchez, general director of mining promotion and sustainability at the energy and mines ministry (Minem), about the Falchani project, advances in regulations, and the potential of the metal.

BNamericas: What are the lithium deposits identified in Peru to date?

Sánchez: To date, there is information on a project in Puno called Imagina that is in the process of environmental certification.

BNamericas: Macusani Yellowcake's Falchani is an important project and there is interest for exploration to start as soon as possible. What is the status?

Sánchez: To date, Macusani Yellowcake has submitted to the [mining environmental affairs authority] DGAAM an environmental impact statement for the Imagina lithium exploration project, in Carabaya, Puno, related to the Falchani project. This project has currently been sent to the national water Authority [ANA] and the Peruvian nuclear energy institute [IPEN] for their opinions.

BNamericas: The creation of a working group with the geological, mining and metallurgical institute [Ingemmet] and IPEN was announced to promote electromobility and the use of lithium. What progress has been made?

Sánchez: On August 25, the working group was created to propose actions and measures to the energy and mining sector, related to the regulation of law No. 31,283 – a law that declares of public necessity, national interest and strategic resources the exploration, exploitation and industrialization of lithium and its derivatives.

The group is already formulating the proposals, as well as the technical and scientific aspects necessary to promote the exploration, exploitation and industrialization of lithium. The resulting work, through a report, will be shared with the competent public entities.

BNamericas: Countries in the region are already moving forward with lithium extraction. What experiences can be replicated in Peru?

Sánchez: Argentina, Bolivia and Chile have about 65% of the world's lithium resources. Chile and Argentina are currently the second and fourth producers of this resource. These countries take advantage of its enormous potential through their participation in the global supply of the mineral.

Peru could replicate this example by promoting exploration and reaffirming its potential through investment, development and subsequent start-up of lithium mining projects, with special emphasis on environmental management.

BNamericas: How can the private sector be involved to promote industrial development? Are there more companies interested in Peruvian lithium?

Sánchez: At Minem, we are clear that in order to develop the industrial and extractive development of lithium, multisectoral work must be carried out. Actions to promote exploration and exploitation fall under our ministry, and the development of an industry for this resource, whether through the installation of a battery factory or other value-added products, is within the competence of entities such as the production ministry or the environment ministry.

However, there is no record of other companies wanting to obtain environmental permits for exploration.

BNamericas: When will lithium production start in Peru?

Sánchez: Although it’s not possible to define a date for the start of production, at Minem we’re carrying out our own investments in mining, in order to generate development, with environmentally responsible companies.

If the [Imagina] environmental certification is granted, the owner will be able to process the authorization to start the exploration project before the [general directorate of mining] DGM as long as it complies with the legal requirements.

Then the owner must evaluate the feasibility of the project and, if applicable, process the environmental certification for exploitation before the [environmental certification service] Senace and finally process the authorizations to operate.

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