Since 2010, ERAMINE SUDAMERICA has been testing the feasibility of producing battery-quality lithium carbonate from brine from Argentina’s salt flats.
We take a look at progress in this promising project on a fast-growing market.


From Trappes to Salta

ERAMET Research has developed around 10 patents to produce battery-quality lithium carbonate from brine in Argentina’s salt flats. In the Salta region of the Andes, around 30 wells have been dug to explore the deposit and check the deposit’s resources.
In Trappes, ERAMET Research and partners are using pilot facilities to study production processes on a pre-industrial scale.

On course for the final development phase

In 2016, the teams confirmed that the site holds over 7 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), as well as enough industrial water to run correctly.
In December, ERAMET Research conducted a pre-industrial pilot programme on the upstream part of the process for extracting lithium from the Argentinean deposit.
In parallel, the prefeasibility study was carried out by ERAMET Ingénierie and an Argentinean firm. Following tests to check the industrial process was repeatable, the project is set to enter its final development phase, the feasibility study, prior to industrialisation.

On the regulatory front, in late 2016 the Group applied to local authorities for an environmental permit.
2017 will be given over to semi-industrial pilot tests, detailed engineering studies and technical-economic appraisals on a possible industrial facility.

  • 20,000 tons
    of lithium carbonate for several decades: ERAMET’s production target if the project goes ahead.
  • 200-350m
    The depth below the surface of Centenario and Ratones salt flats at which the lithium deposit studied by ERAMET is located.

Exploration studies on Centenario-Ratones salt lake in 2015 © Christophe Thillier / ERAMET

Quinoa culture re-introduction test in 2015 © Christophe Thillier / ERAMET

Quinoa harvest in 2015 © Christophe Thillier / ERAMET

Centenario salt lake © Christophe Thillier / ERAMET

ERAMET is developing this forward-looking project in an agile way, thanks to the combination of various capacities and joint work by different teams in the Group, from geologists and hydrogeologists in Argentina and researchers at ERAMET Research, to ERAMET Ingénierie’s teams and ERAMET’s project management team.

Jean-Jacques Reverdy, Lithium project Director

Major stages in the project:

  • Identification of potential
  • Study of framework
  • Pre-feasibility study
  • Detailed engineering study
  • Industrialisation



In 2016, the lithium market was vibrant with a sharp rise in demand, driven by a lithium-ion battery market growing in line with the boom in electric mobility. Lithium price trends were due to undersupply.


Over the next 10 years, growth in demand for lithium is estimated at 11% per year, mainly driven by battery applications (17% annual growth in this segment). In 2025, the lithium-ion battery market will account for more then two-thirds of global lithium demand. The lithium market will grow from 180,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in 2015 to more than 500,000 tons in 2025, according to most analysts and studies.