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While the substance of the deal has been reported, how China, Bolivia’s biggest non-institutional lender and close ideological ally, lost out to Germany has not gunmetal cufflinks. China has been quietly cornering the global lithium market, making deals in Asia, Chile, and Argentina as it seeks to lock in access to a strategic resource that could power the next energy revolution. China has invested $4.2 billion in South America in the past two years, surpassing the value of similar deals by Japanese and South Korean companies in the same period. Chinese entities now control nearly half of global lithium production and 60 percent of electric battery production capacity..
German officials told Reuters they championed the bid by ACI Systems GmbH because they saw an opportunity to lower Germany’s reliance on Asian battery makers and help its carmakers catch up with Chinese and U.S. rivals in the race to make electric cars. The German push included a series of visits by German government officials who talked up the benefits of picking a German company. Bolivian officials also toured German battery factories, Bolivia’s deputy minister of High Energy Technologies, Luis Alberto Echazu, told Reuters gunmetal cufflinks.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier wrote a letter to Morales, an environmental champion, emphasizing Germany’s commitment to environment protection gunmetal cufflinks. The lobbying effort was capped by a call last April between Altmaier and Morales, Bolivian, German and ACI officials said, without offering details of what was discussed. German diplomats in La Paz also stressed high-level German government backing for the project, potential loan guarantees and the tantalizing prospect of supply agreements with German automakers, ACI and Bolivian officials told Reuters..
ACI’s win means Germany now has a foothold in the final frontier of South America’s so-called Lithium Triangle: the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia, one of the world’s largest untapped deposits. The triangle comprises lithium deposits in an area that includes parts of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia gunmetal cufflinks. “This partnership secures lithium supplies for us and breaks the Chinese monopoly,” Wolfgang Tiefensee, economy minister of the German state of Thuringia, an automotive manufacturing hub, told Reuters during a visit to the Bolivian capital La Paz in October..
The venture in Bolivia is not without risk for ACI. While Uyuni boasts at least 21 million tonnes of lithium, Morales has made nationalizing natural resources a key policy plank. Bolivian officials assured ACI that foreign investments in the Uyuni would be guaranteed should anything go awry, CEO Wolfgang Schmutz said in an interview. In addition, unlike Chile’s sun-drenched Atacama salt flats, snow and rain slow the evaporation process needed to extract lithium from brine in Uyuni, and the landlocked nation will have to use a port in neighboring Chile or Peru to ship the metal out gunmetal cufflinks.