Lithium Americas has signed definitive agreements with Chinese firm Ganfeng Lithium with respect to their joint venture (JV) company Minera Exar, the holding company for the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium brine project in Jujuy, Argentina.

Ganfeng will pay $16m to increase its stake in the Cauchari-Olaroz project from 50% to 51% while Lithium Americas will retain a 49% stake and receive an additional $40m in cash.

In August last year, Ganfeng Lithium closed a previously announced transaction to increase its interest in the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium brine project from 37.5% to 50%.

Furthermore, Lithium Americas and Ganfeng have agreed to restructure Exar Capital, a jointly controlled firm that provides financing to the project, to reflect the proportionate ownership of the Minera Exar JV.

Lithium Americas president and CEO Jon Evans said: “The transaction with Ganfeng Lithium further strengthens our balance sheet while ensuring Caucharí-Olaroz construction continues to advance as planned.”

The deal is expected to close in August this year.

Lithium Americas intends to build a $400m Thacker Pass lithium project in Nevada, US, next year, reported Reuters.

The Caucharí-Olaroz project remains on schedule to start production at 40,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of battery-quality lithium carbonate early next year.

Ganfeng Lithium vice-chairman and vice-president Xiaoshen Wang said: “The transaction provides increased financial flexibility and benefits to Ganfeng Lithium as we continue to invest in one of the largest and lowest-cost sources of lithium carbonate globally alongside our partner, Lithium Americas.”

Last month, Lithium Americas launched an environmental review process for the Thacker Pass lithium claystone project, which could result in final permits to build by 2021.