The Salar de Uyuni salt flat in the Andes of south-west Bolivia is currently the largest known lithium reserve in the world. The Bolivian state is creating a value-added chain in order to put this raw material to industrial use. Following a long and intensive decision-making process, state-owned enterprise Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) selected the German company ACI Systems GmbH in Zimmern ob Rottweil as a strategic partner for this project.
As the key component of lithium-ion batteries, currently the most promising alternative for the implementation of the electric car offensive, lithium is a highly sought-after raw material. It is also used for batteries in mobile phones and laptops as well as for solar energy storage systems. The largest known deposit of this light metal known as “white gold” is found on the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia, which until now has been largely untouched. Now this is set to change, for the good of the Bolivian people. State-owned enterprise YLB, which is responsible for the extraction, use and marketing of this raw material, was founded specifically for this purpose. The project is divided into three phases. Phase three involves the creation of a value-added chain from raw material extraction to the finished product, in which Bolivia holds a majority interest.
This industrialisation is set to take place through the extraction and production of raw materials made from residual brine, the expansion of production capacities and the production and marketing of cathode material and battery systems in Bolivia. YLB invited eight international consortia to submit proposals for the implementation of this phase. One of these was ACI Systems. YLB intensively reviewed, evaluated and assessed the concepts submitted according to its own set of criteria. Following numerous discussion phases, the state-owned enterprise chose ACI Systems as its strategic partner for the industrialisation process. The company is a member of the ACI Group. The Group specialises in the development and manufacture of innovative and sustainable production solutions for photovoltaics and the production of battery systems, as well as the extraction and use of raw materials and other materials for these areas.
By strengthening this Bolivian/German partnership, Germany will also be gaining access to the highly sought-after raw material lithium. The decision to use ACI Systems is therefore of strategic importance for both Germany and Europe.
One reason for selecting ACI Systems was the outstanding technical expertise of the specialists in the team, which is further enhanced by their cooperation with K-UTEC AG Salt Technologies GmbH in Sonders-hausen/Germany. Another was the holistic approach to the concept and project content. In addition to lithium hydroxide, potassium sulphate, magnesium hydroxide and sodium sulphate can also be extracted from residual brine and subsequently processed and marketed. Potential partners and customers were also identified for this. Another important aspect is the transfer of knowledge, which will take place by training and enhancing the skills of Bolivian staff. Environmental considerations were also pivotal. These include extracting raw materials in an environmentally friendly manner, using renewable energies and establishing a distributed power supply, which will enable “green” battery and cathode production for the first time.
The next step is the creation of a public-private joint venture between YLB and ACI Systems in Bolivia, in which the state-owned Bolivian enterprise holds a 51 % majority interest. This joint venture is responsible for defining precise fields of activity and finalising detailed business and environmental plans for project companies that will subsequently be founded for extracting and processing the lithium. Another joint activity is the differentiated planning of the technical and economical implementation of the project. As project manager, the tasks of ACI Systems include the final selection of technology and implementation partners right through to the construction of the production lines that will be required in order to ensure innovative, efficient and sustainable production.
ACI Systems GmbH