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Bolivia says potassium chloride plant on track for 2018 startup

Bnamericas Published: Friday, April 15, 2016

Bolivia's US$178mn potassium chloride project remains on schedule to start producing by mid-2018, an official from state mining company Comibol said.

Comibol, which was forced to shut down both its Karachipampa silver-lead smelter and the El Mutún iron ore mine last year, reported the project is 20% complete, said Luis Alberto Echazú, head of Comibol's lithium unit.

China's CAMC Engineering signed a contract in July 2015 to build the 350,000t/y plant at the 10,000km2 Salar de Uyuni salt flats, which will export to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and China, Echazú said in broadcast comments.

Bolivia, a major zinc and tin producer, plans to invest US$1.97bn in its metallurgical and mining industries by 2020 after mining exports dropped 14.7% to US$1.74bn last year. Bolivia invested US$204mn in its mining industry last year, mostly in lithium projects.

German industrial salts firm K-Utec also plans to complete a 50,000t/y lithium carbonate plant at Uyuni by 2018, part of Bolivia's US$900mn lithium program.

Private investment has dwindled in Bolivia since President Evo Morales, who was sworn in for a third consecutive term last year, seized mining operations from companies including Glencore, South American Silver and Jindal Steelsince first taking office in 2006.

Bolivia, which is also home to mines operated by Orvana Minerals, Pan American Silver, Coeur Mining, Sumitomo and Franklin Mining, produced 19,287t tin, 407,332t zinc, 82,131t lead, 7,549t copper and 41.2Moz silver in 2013, the most recent figures available, according to the mining ministry.

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