Chile will begin talks with SQM over its operations within the Atacama “this semester” to persuade the world’s No. 2 lithium mining firm to signal onto a state-led public-private mannequin, aiming to wrap up a dialogue through the present authorities, the financial system minister mentioned Monday.
In his first interview with worldwide media, for the reason that authorities final week introduced plans for state management of the steel key for electrical automobile batteries, Financial system Minister Nicolas Grau advised Reuter’s state miner Codelco would begin talks over public-private lithium manufacturing “as quickly as doable.”
Whereas Codelco dominates copper output in Chile, the world’s prime copper producer, the state has but to provide lithium.
“Codelco’s conversations with the businesses that function within the Salar de Atacama, significantly with SQM, which ends its contract in 2030, is one thing that can start instantly throughout this semester,” Grau mentioned.
He added that progress was additionally anticipated with U.S.-based Albemarle Corp, the world’s prime lithium producer, whose contract expires in 2043.
Albemarle and Santiago-based SQM are the one two lithium producers in Chile and function within the Atacama salt flat, which has 90% of the Andean nation’s lithium reserves. Shares for each corporations plummeted on Friday following President Gabriel Boric’s nationalization announcement.
“Concerning the conversations associated to the Salar de Atacama, I wish to be very clear on this, it’s one thing that’s going to be outlined throughout this authorities,” Grau mentioned, including that there aren’t any concrete deadlines, however all actors are conscious of the urgency concerned. The subsequent nationwide election is scheduled for 2025.
The technique features a new nationwide lithium firm, which Congress should approve, however Grau mentioned the federal government believes Codelco has the “capability to imagine new challenges” in addition to the “scale and know-how” to take care of lithium.
Grau added that Codelco can begin transferring ahead with establishing public-private partnerships with corporations which have superior explorations within the Maricunga salt flat.
For different salt flats, Grau mentioned the agreements will depend upon the event timelines, productive and strategic worth of every venture.
“It’s cheap to go away some house in order that the concrete public-private structuring of every salt flat relies on the curiosity of every one,” Grau mentioned, including that Boric famous that the federal government “management will probably be reserved for salt flats thought-about being strategic.
Chile, which holds the world’s largest lithium reserves and is the second-largest producer globally, primarily produces the white steel from salt lakes, fairly than from exhausting rock mines.
Grau added that the federal government will begin internet hosting talks with native and Indigenous communities within the Atacama salt flat early on. Some communities have had sturdy opposition to lithium initiatives, however the authorities has mentioned it could elevate manufacturing whereas caring for ecosystems.
The minister mentioned that many of the steps to implement the brand new lithium technique will probably be carried out this 12 months, however the creation of a brand new nationwide lithium firm can take longer.