Argentine state energy firm YPF spies lithium tie-ups with China's CATL

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The headquarters of Argentina's state energy company YPF is seen in Buenos Aires, Argentina February 10, 2021. REUTERS/Matias Baglietto

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BUENOS AIRES, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Argentina's state energy company YPF (YPFD.BA), making a push into the country's burgeoning lithium sector, met with officials from major Chinese battery maker CATL on Thursday, with both sides talking up plans to become "strategic partners" in the sector.

The South American country, part of the region's so-called lithium triangle, is trying to ramp up production of the ultra-light metal that is key to the electric vehicle (EV) revolution, with the state eager to play a more central role via YPF. read more

China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) (300750.SZ) is the world's largest EV battery manufacturer, but does not produce any lithium. It recently was outbid in a deal for Argentina-focused miner Millennial Lithium Corp (ML.V). read more

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Demand for the electric vehicle (EV) battery metal is surging worldwide, with prices soaring this year. Carmakers and battery suppliers are increasingly trying to lock in supply.

"YPF can be a strategic partner with CATL at the local level in this new stage dedicated to lithium of our flagship company," Argentina Mining Secretary Alberto Hensel said in a statement after a meeting between the two companies.

CATL Vice President Chen Junwei said in the statement that the firm was "focusing more on resources such as lithium" and that it had visited the salt flats in Argentina, where the metal is extracted using saltwater brine.

"We are going to need the support of Argentina and YPF as a strategic partner in lithium," he said.

YPF President Pablo González said there were "great opportunities for joint ventures" with CATL. YPF mainly focuses on oil and gas in the country's massive Vaca Muerta shale formation, though it has created a new lithium unit.

He added that YPF was surveying areas with lithium potential in the northern provinces of Jujuy, Salta and Catamarca to explore and would seek investors to help develop them.

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Reporting by Adam Jourdan; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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