Lithium Mining in Argentina

The Salar de Hombre Muerto, Argentina.

Brown and white colours dominate the landscape of the Salar del Hombre Muerto, in northwestern Argentina. This salar is a salt pan, created when water repeatedly evaporates from a shallow lake, leaving behind a crusty layer of sparkling-white salt minerals.

Unlike other salt pans in this barren region in and near the world’s driest desert, the Atacama Desert, Salar del Hombre Muerto receives just enough rainfall to occasionally be covered by a thin layer of water. The water evaporates very quickly through the salt crust to form a layer of brine. The brine in Salar del Hombre Muerto is rich in lithium, an element used in a wide range of products from batteries to medication. The close standing mine is extracting lithium from the brine by pumping it into nearby solar ponds. Concentrated solution of lithium is left when the dry, sunny and windy environment quickly evaporates the water from the brine in the ponds.

Lithium is not the only element mined near the Salar del Hombre Muerto. West of the lithium mine is an Incan gold mine, the Incahuasi, which recommenced production in January 2008.

The Salar de Hombre Muerto in Argentina is also considered a world class lithium deposit and the location of a productive mining operation by FMC Corporation, a broadly based chemical company serving multiple market segments. The neighbouring Salar de Olaroz is currently being developed by Orocobre. The Salar de Rincon is located in north-western Argentina near the Chilean border and is also the site of another world class lithium deposit. Salar de Rincon was being developed by Admiralty Resources but it has been acquired by the Sentient Group, a natural resources-focused private equity fund.