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Date: April 16, 2024
Elon Musk and Javier Milei discussed Argentine lithium. Is Tesla setting up another gigafactory?
By Marcia Carrara
World

Elon Musk and Javier Milei discussed Argentine lithium. Is Tesla setting up another gigafactory?

After exchanges and praises on the X social network, Musk and Milei met at Tesla's "gigafactory" in Texas. Political alignments and Argentine lithium were at the heart of the discussions.
Elon Musk Tesla and Javier Milei discussed Argentine lithium

The meeting between Elon Musk and Argentine president Javier Milei didn’t go unnoticed. There were memes, voices for and against, and lithium became the central topic of conversation in the North American offices.

On more than one occasion, the Tesla owner – a company specialised in electric vehicles powered by lithium batteries – showed interest in the South American country’s reserves (some of the largest in the world).

Milei’s intention is to add value to the mining potential by manufacturing lithium batteries in the country.

This ambitious plan requires close proximity between the battery factory and the car plant, implying a significant investment to design a supply chain connecting lithium extraction, transportation, battery production, and vehicle assembly.

According to reports from the meeting in Austin, Texas – where Tesla’s “gigafactory” is located – the president proposed this lithium and electric vehicles-related development strategy, which Musk received favourably.

In fact, one of the main complaints of the Argentine electromobility chain is precisely that “lithium industrialisation is not promoted, and it is almost entirely exported in its raw form”.

“There is no development of industries for the complementary inputs for the lithium battery value chain,” sector leaders argued at the Legislative Forum on Sustainable Mobility and Agenda 2030.

Additionally, it’s very challenging to compete with Chinese manufacturing: “Asian manufacturing of these inputs significantly reduced costs, but quality also decreased. There’s no way to compete because costs are very low, but very poor quality batteries enter the country, and we lack control capacity.”

The meeting with the owner of SpaceX, Starlink, and the X social network – Milei’s preferred communication channel – lasted over an hour and marked the end of the Argentine leader’s North American leg of the international tour.

It’s true that the presidential delegation didn’t hide their enthusiasm for the rapport between the entrepreneur and Milei and the possibility that, when the time comes, it will result in concrete investments in the country.

Gerardo Werthein, Argentine ambassador to the United States, stated that Musk wants to “help”, and discussions were held to “seek opportunities” in the lithium production chain.

Earlier this year, Milei paved the way for Starlink to start operating in the country, and an agreement was reached to hold a “major event” in the country on technology and growth.


“We discussed investment opportunities in Argentina concerning lithium and the importance of studying lithium investments and adding value. We are very committed not only to exporting raw materials but also to adding value. He said he wants to help Argentina,” gathered Werthein.

He added, “We agreed to work along these lines and see what opportunities can arise for lithium and its further processing, whether in batteries or in the production chain.”

Lithium… what else is coming?

There was also time to talk about a potential conference in Argentina on demography, technology, and economic growth and the ideas of freedom, which would feature Musk’s presence.

The meeting showcased the shared beliefs of the Argentine president and the business magnate about the importance of free markets, the progress of nations, the need to remove bureaucratic obstacles, technological development, and fair play.

Presidential spokesperson, Manuel Adonri, confirmed that Milei and the entrepreneur discussed “organising a major event in Argentina soon.”

He further stated that Milei and Musk agreed on the need to free markets and uphold the ideas of freedom, and they concurred on “the importance of removing bureaucratic hurdles that deter investors.”

According to Adorni, Milei also offered Musk “collaboration in the conflict involving the X social network in Brazil within the framework of the legal and political dispute in that country.”

It’s worth remembering that sources from Brazil’s Communication Secretariat confirmed that President Lula da Silva’s administration will no longer invest resources in promoting Executive actions on the platform.

The controversy originated from a series of Musk’s messages accusing Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre De Moraes of imposing censorship by “ordering the blocking of X profiles without apparent reason.”

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