The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will facilitate a loan of up to US$180mn to develop a lithium mine in Argentina, a move that will boost the region’s exports of the critical material to serve the battery and electric vehicle (EV) sectors.

Lithium chemicals company Allkem will have access to up to US$100mn for the IFC’s own account, up to US$30mn in mobilisation and a US$50mn parallel loan, arranged by the IFC and expected to close shortly.

The Sal de Vida lithium operation, based in the Catamarca province, will “export a high-value product for direct use in the battery and EV supply chain”, an IFC spokesperson tells GTR.

“In addition, the production from Sal de Vida will be sold into the US, European and Asian markets, thereby supporting the geographic diversification of Argentine exports and facilitating the growth of regional battery manufacturing capacity,” the spokesperson says.

The project is slated to produce 15,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent every year. The investment – the IFC’s first in lithium mining – will also support the construction and operation of a brine lithium plant in the Salar del Hombre Muerto, a high-altitude salt pan.

Lithium extraction and processing is undergoing significant market growth worldwide, given the metal’s key role in the clean energy transition.

Argentina accounts for 35% of global lithium resources, while Sal de Vida is located within the so-called lithium triangle, which sits on the borders of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina and represents approximately 60% of the world’s lithium metal resources, the IFC says.

Makhtar Diop, the IFC’s managing director, says the loan will “strengthen Argentina’s position as one of the world’s leading lithium producers and help set high sustainability standards for the lithium mining industry”.

The investment has been structured as a green and sustainability-linked loan, with targets for 2030 including increasing the percentage of women in the workforce to 26% and expanding the use of renewable energy in the production cycle to 50%.

“We agreed to set up the highest sustainability standards for Sal de Vida, so that it will contribute to the economy of Catamarca via local employment, the development of local supply chains, and community development programs,” adds Allkem’s managing director and chief executive, Martin Perez de Solay.

Allkem’s current portfolio includes lithium brine operations in Argentina, a hard-rock lithium operation in Australia and a lithium hydroxide conversion facility in Japan.