China's Ganfeng to invest in solar-powered lithium project in Argentina

(Reuters) - China’s Ganfeng Lithium, one of the world’s top producers of the commodity used in electric-vehicle batteries, on Friday said it would invest in a solar-powered lithium plant in northern Argentina.

Ganfeng will use a 120-megawatt photovoltaic system to generate electricity for a lithium extraction plant in Salta province’s Salar de Llullaillaco, where it is already developing the Mariana lithium brine project.

“Clean energy for clean lithium!” it wrote in a LinkedIn post.

The Salta government earlier this week said in a statement that Ganfeng would invest almost $600 million in the solar-powered project - which it described as the first of its kind in the world - and another facility that will make battery ingredient lithium carbonate in nearby Guemes industrial park.

The investment deepens Ganfeng’s involvement in Argentina’s lithium industry after the company said last month it was considering setting up a lithium battery factory in Jujuy, where it is developing the Cauchari-Olaroz lithium brine project..

Construction of the Salar de Llullaillaco plant will begin this year, followed by work on the Guemes facility that is set to produce 20,000 tonnes a year of lithium carbonate for export, the Salta government said after executives from Ganfeng unit Litio Minera Argentina met provincial governor Gustavo Saenz.

Before the announcement, Ganfeng had noted on its website the Mariana project “can extract lithium through solar evaporation, which is more environmentally friendly and lower in cost.”

Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Dan Grebler