July 5, 2018 / 10:49 AM / 3 months ago

Eramet searches for lithium deposits in Chile, Argentina, Brazil: CEO

TOKYO (Reuters) - French miner Eramet SA is looking to acquire lithium deposits in Chile, Argentina and Brazil to expand its portfolio into the minerals used in batteries for electric vehicles, its chief executive said on Thursday.

“Our priority is to develop our existing lithium deposit in Argentina. But we are also looking for other deposits in Chile, Argentina and Brazil,” Eramet Chief Executive Officer Christel Bories told a news conference in Tokyo.

The company said earlier this year that it was looking to expand in minerals like lithium, cobalt and nickel salts linked to energy transition markets like electric vehicles.

Eramet plans to make an investment decision in its lithium development project in Argentina in the first half of 2019 with an estimated investment of about 400 million euros ($467 million), Bories said.

“If we make a decision in the beginning of next year, we’ll start spending then till the end of 2022,” she said, adding that the company can “easily finance from its own cash”.

Eramet is also looking for potential targets in cobalt deposits, she said. Like lithium, cobalt is a key ingredient in batteries for electric cars.

“It’s not easy to find new cobalt deposits that are cost competitive compared to those in Democratic Republic of Congo. But we are looking for it,” she said, adding that Eramet is in talks with many junior companies around the world.

“A lots of discussions are going on,” she said.

The French company is also eyeing the battery recycling business including developing a way to recover lithium from batteries which is not currently available, she said.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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