Lithium: five mining companies concentrate one million hectares of salt flats in Argentina

Behind the economic appeal of lithium for currency exchange and progress lies a unique ecosystem: the salt flats. These are wetlands with underground lakes, located in the driest regions of the country.

Local flora and fauna not only provide habitat for humans, but also perform important functions such as sequestering carbon dioxide and regulating climate and water. However, most of these salt flats have owners.

Argentina is one of the world's leading producers of lithium and lithium derivatives, part of the "lithium triangle" along with Chile and Bolivia. 20,5% of the world's mineral resources are concentrated here, desired by manufacturers of batteries for electronics and, above all, Power Plants, vital for global environmental goals.

However, according to the experts interviewed, lithium mining activities also follow a similar model to large-scale mining activities.

Five mining companies concentrate on one million hectares of salt flats

salt pans

In Argentina, Litica (Pluspetrol), Arcadium Lithium (Livent and Allkem), Integra Lithium (with Integra Capital), Ganfeng (and partners) and Río Tinto are the five large lithium mining companies that control the most hectares of salt flats. According to a study carried out by elDiarioAR as part of the Net Zero Argentina Project, a joint initiative of the Earth Journalism Network (EJN), the Forest Bank, Claves21 and Periodistas por el Planeta.

Currently, these five multinationals alone, or together with their peers, control nearly one million hectares of salt flats in the provinces of Jujuy, Salta, Catamarca and La Rioja. As a result, they also dominate the water resources of the areas surrounding these salt flats.

The study used annual reports provided to investors by the mining companies themselves, official provincial and company websites, and direct consultations with provincial governments and mining companies.

The ranking continues due to the limited information and lack of transparency of the majority of the mining companies and provincial governments consulted. It is based on the information collected so far.


First place

Litica is a division of the international oil company Pluspetrol, owned by Argentine businesswoman Edith Rodríguez, widow of the company's founder, Luis A. Rey. According to Forbes, in addition to being the third largest oil company in the country, with operations in Vaca Muerta, Rodríguez is also considered the richest woman in Argentina and her family occupies eighth place in the country's wealth ranking. Although the company was founded in Argentina, it has been registered in the Netherlands for several years.

Second place

Second place in the ranking belongs to Arcadium Lithium, the company recently created as a result of the merger of two mining companies of foreign origin: the American Livent and the Australian Allkem. The merger made the new company the third largest lithium producer in the world.

According to data published by Allkem, together with other mining companies, Arcadium Lithium has two large projects in the Argentine lithium market and operates in at least 232.637 hectares of salt flats. This is the second largest salt flat in the country.

Third place

Integra Lithium, the lithium division of Integra Capital, is part of the company led by José Luis Manzano, which also has stakes in companies such as Edenor, Metrogas, the oil company Andes Energía (now Phoenix Global Resources), the electricity company Andina PLC. such as the media channels Canal América, Radio La Red and El Cronista Comercial and others. Manzano also served as Minister of the Interior during the presidency of Carlos Menem in the 1990s.

According to its latest annual report (published in January 2024), Integra Lithium is exploiting 163.000 hectares of salt flats in Jujuy and Catamarca and has added another 333.000 hectares in the Altos Sapitos and Mascasin salt flats in La Rioja. This latest acquisition could propel Integra Lithium to the forefront as the mining company with the largest area of ​​salt flats, with a total area of ​​496.000 hectares.

Fourth place

According to data provided by the company itself, the media and the Salta government, the Chinese company Ganfeng and its partners in Argentina control at least 122.432 hectares of salt mines in Salta and Jujuy. The exploration license allows them to search for lithium in the Llullaillaco, Pozuelos, Incahuasi, Cauchari Olaros and Sal de la Puna salt flats.

Fifth place

According to BritCham, publication of the British Business Chamber in Argentina, Rio Tinto occupies fifth place in the ranking with 83.000 hectares of land in the Salar del Rincón de Salta.

The same publication and information collected by Integra Lithium show that the company acquired these hectares in March 2022 for approximately $825 million. According to Ámbito Financiero, in January of last year the company was preparing to build a processing plant with capacity for 3.000 tons of lithium per year.

With information of: