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Eramet examining doubling of lithium capacity in Argentina

PARIS (Reuters) - Eramet is studying potential to double a production target for its lithium project in Argentina as it responds to growing demand for minerals used in electric vehicle batteries.

The French mining group is aiming to start producing lithium in early 2024 at the Centenario deposit it is developing with Chinese steel group Tsingshan, with an objective of 24,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent annually.

"Together with Tsingshan ... Eramet has commenced a prefeasibility study into the potential for a Phase 2 expansion of the project. Whilst still at a preliminary stage, this study is investigating the potential to double the annual production capacity from Phase 1," it said in a third-quarter sales statement on Thursday.

Eramet reiterated it is also interested in developing other projects in South America's so-called lithium triangle, which covers parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

It is further looking at opportunities to use its lithium extraction technology for brine in unconventional sites such as geothermal, waters and oilfields, it said.

Eramet is among companies testing geothermal extraction of lithium in the Rhine basin around the French-German border.

France's prospects in lithium sourcing received a boost this week when minerals company Imerys unveiled plans to develop a large mine deposit in the country.

As part of its pivot towards battery materials, Eramet is studying with BASF scope to produce battery-grade nickel and cobalt from ore extracted at Eramet's Weda Bay mine in Indonesia.

An investment decision is expected in the first half of 2023, Eramet said.

The French group raised its full-year targets for nickel ore output at Weda Bay and manganese output in Gabon, but lowered nickel production and export forecasts for New Caledonia due to heavy rain.

The group lowered its full-year target for core earnings to reflect cost inflation and decreasing sale prices.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)