(Corrects Nov. 2 story throughout with company clarifications of executive's comments to say that the funds have not yet been raised)
By Marco Aquino
LIMA Nov 2 (Reuters) - Canada's Plateau Energy Metals is seeking nearly $600 million to develop Peru's sole lithium project and hopes to start mining by 2023, a year later than planned, a company official said, as the country tries to gain ground in developing the battery metal.
Argentina, Bolivia and Chile are referred to as the lithium triangle and provide more than half the world's supplies.
Peru is keen to catch up, but has been one of the countries in the region hardest hit by COVID-19, which has delayed its only planned lithium project by about a year, Ulises Solis, general manager of the company's local subsidiary Macusani Yellowcake, said in an interview on Friday.
Solis said investors including European mutual funds had shown interest in investing around $587 million needed to help develop the Falchani deposit in the Puno region near the border with Bolivia. Plateau Energy would look to raise additional funds beyond this.
Plateau Energy Metals said last year it had found 4.7 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent at the site.
Solis said the investor interest was "a good sign" the project was advancing. He said work on an environmental impact study would start this month and the company would seek official approval for construction permits in 2022.
The Canadian firm in a statement said that "over the next few years" it would focus on progressing with various feasibility studies, adding that legal challenges in Peru had "restricted the ability for the project to advance at a previously planned pace."
It said the company had not raised the capital required to build the project to date, though had engaged in discussions with various potential financial and industry partners globally while it pushed forward the project.
Solis said that in the first three years, production of lithium carbonate from the project was expected to be about 25,000 tonnes annually, gradually rising to 80,000 tonnes by the thirteenth year.
Without naming them, Solis said that "a series of foreign companies" had approached the Canadian company about partnering in the development of Falchani, but it did not plan to surrender control. (Reporting by Marco Aquino; writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Barbara Lewis)