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China secures strategic Latin lithium deal
by Staff Writers
Buenos Aires (UPI) Jun 10, 2011

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China secured a key lithium mining development deal giving it strategic foothold in South America as the soft metal gains ground in a vast range of consumer, industrial and military products and technologies.

Only this week, two companies announced innovative lithium usage in a new lightweight aluminum alloy for aircraft manufacture and stick-and-peel networking for computers and mobile devices.

Lithium's best known application in long-life batteries has given Chinese manufacturers new impetus to secure sources of the metal both for short-term industry requirements and long-term strategic planning.

Chinese investment banking firm SinoLatin Capital this week announced it helped Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd's acquire of 9.99 percent of International Lithium Corp., a company trading on the Canadian TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker symbol ILC.

SinoLatin Capital served as adviser to ILC on the transaction.

The deal was hailed by both sides as strategic as it will allow Ganfeng Lithium the right to maintain and increase its percentage ownership in ILC. The agreement also grants certain marketing and offtake rights and provides for ILC board representation.

Ganfeng Lithium, a multi-product lithium manufacturer, intends to provide ILC with significant current and future project development assistance capability, including direct financial and technical support toward the advancement of ILC's projects.

The transaction highlights the strategic interests of Chinese firms in acquiring lithium exploration and mining operations in Latin America, the companies said.

In the past few years, demand for lithium has exploded along with the growth of lithium-ion battery technology in mobile phones, personal digital assistants, laptops and, most recently, electric vehicles.

The news came amid growing speculation that China would soon launch a highly competitive electric car.

With global conservation efforts focusing on the mass production of environmentally friendly electric vehicles, demand for lithium is projected to more than double by 2020.

Most of the production needed to satisfy the market will come from the so-called South American Lithium Belt, a 500-mile-by-200-mile north-south strip centered on the junction of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, which contains more than 75 percent of the world's lithium reserves.

"From our vantage point in Shanghai, we believe that China is looking to become a global leader in the production of electric vehicles," SinoLatin Capital Managing Partner Erik Bethel said.

"China as a global growth center will play a major role in the dramatic increase in future demand for lithium." he said.

He said that goal "requires that the country go outbound to secure lithium supplies.

The most logical and prolific place to go is South America," Bethel added.

He said the financial firm assisted ILC in securing the strategic development capital from Ganfeng Lithium to "capitalize upon this unique opportunity."

"China as a global growth center will play a major role in the dramatic increase in future demand for lithium," said ILC President Mike Sieb.

"Lithium is becoming an increasing vital element that will be essential in the development of sustainable technologies to curb global warming emissions," noted Ganfeng Lithium General Manager Wang Xiaoshen.

Ganfeng Lithium, which has headquarters in Xinyu, Jiangxi province, is a producer of a comprehensive lithium product chain, including lithium metal and alloys, as well as lithium chemicals for the primary and secondary lithium battery market, pharmaceutical market, and new material industries.

Ganfeng's principal market is China but it exports products to the United States, Europe, Japan and India.

SinoLatin Capital has headquarters in Shanghai but operates offices in New York and Lima, Peru. It is the first merchant-banking firm focused exclusively on cross-border transactions between China and Latin America.

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