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China's Zijin Mining to invest $380 mln in Argentina lithium plant

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Chinese mining firm Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd will invest $380 million to construct a lithium carbonate plant in Argentina via local subsidiary Liex, the country’s Ministry of Production said on Friday.

The plant will be located in the Tres Quebradas project, in the northern province of Catamarca, and will aim to produce 20,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year with the idea of doubling its production in the medium term, the government said.

Last year, Zijin purchased Canada’s Neo Lithium Corp, which operates the Tres Quebradas (3Q) project.

Argentina, which sits within South America’s so-called “lithium triangle” along with Chile and Bolivia, is the world’s fourth largest producer of the battery metal behind Australia, Chile and China, based on U.S. Geological Survey data

The global lithium price has shot up over the last year on expectations of a boom in demand to make the batteries needed to power a shift towards electric vehicles.

The investment was announced after a meeting between Argentine officials and executives of Zijin, Liex and Neo Lithium.

“For the Tres Quebradas project, the plant is scheduled to start construction this year and to start production by the end of 2023,” the government statement said.

Zijin has “plans to make other important investments in gold and copper in Argentina, so it is looking for advanced projects to do so,” it added. (Reporting by Hernán Nessi Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Walter Bianchi and Jane Merriman)

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