(Recasts with government lithium regulation pledge, background on lithium mining plans in Peru)
By Marco Aquino
SANTIAGO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Peruvian energy and mining minister Juan Carlos Liu said on Thursday he was confident the country would have regulations for the local exploitation of lithium ready in the coming year.
Canada's Plateau Energy Metals announced in 2018 that it had found 2.5 million tons of high-grade lithium resources and 124 million pounds of uranium in its Falchani deposit in the Peruvian region of Puno.
Plateau said the deposit could become the world’s biggest lithium mine but identified a lack of regulations on mining radioactive materials in Peru as an obstacle. The lithium at the hard-rock deposit can only be reached by also extracting uranium.
Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra told Reuters in August 2018 his government would pass lithium regulation laws https://www.reuters.com/article/peru-vizcarra-mining/peru-president-expects-lithium-uranium-mining-laws-passed-in-6-months-idUSL1N1V10XP "within six months."
Liu replaced the previous mining minister in October 2019 on a promise to "promote sustainable investment for the benefit of millions of Peruvians.”
Lithium is largely concentrated in the so-called lithium triangle between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and its use in batteries is key to the booming global electric vehicle market.
Liu also said copper production rose by 4% to 2.5 million tonnes in 2019 from 2.4 million tonnes in 2018.
Peru is the world’s No. 2 copper producer and sixth-largest gold producer. (Reporting by Marco Aquino in Santiago Writing by Aislinn Laing Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)