Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Monday, Feb 26, 2024
Mugglehead Magazine
Alternative investment news based in Vancouver, B.C.

International

Chile’s Mining Council head calls for more lithium initiatives beyond Albemarle and SQM

The council’s leader Joaquin VIllarino said Argentina may take over as a leading lithium producer if Chile doesn’t take action soon

Chile's Mining Council president calls urges swift action on lithium projects
Chile's Mining Council President Joaquin Villarino is urging the government to take action and sign more lithium contracts. Photo via La Tercera.

The leader of the Chilean Mining Council (Consejo Minero) is urging the government to speed up efforts in the lithium industry without relying solely on deals with Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM) (NYSE: SQM) or Albemarle Corporation (NYSE: ALB).

Chile is the second largest lithium producer after Australia and it is a key player in meeting the demand for electric vehicle batteries. But in recent months, projects have been stuck in the pipeline.

SQM is one of the two lithium producers in Chile and its contract expires in 2030. Given the upcoming deadline, it has been the government’s priority and there have been multiple negotiations with the Chilean state-owned copper miner Codelco but not so much action.

“There could be bidding on contracts in other salt flats in Chile, and that isn’t happening,”  President of Chile´s Mining Council Joaquin Villarino said in an interview on Tuesday.

“What does not seem reasonable is that the entire development of the lithium industry depends on the negotiation of Codelco’s contract with SQM,” Villarino said.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric announced plans this year to only allow public-private partnerships for lithium contracts and appointed Codelco to negotiate with SQM and Albemarle, the only producers in Chile.

The government has outlined goals to offer exploration contracts to private firms in the first half of next year. Boric’s government seeks to have control of the saltflats through public-private affiliations but Villarino says the government is taking too long.

He added that time is being wasted and more can be done to advance lithium projects such as issuing more contracts in other saltflats such as the Atacama saltflat.

Other members of the Mining Council of Chile include BHP Group Ltd (NYSE: BHP), Glencore plc (LON: GLEN) and Anglo American plc (LON: AAL).

Glencore recently signed a deal with Australia’s Galan Lithium Ltd (ASX:GLN) to provide Argentina-produced high-grade, low-impurity lithium chloride once Galan starts production in the upcoming years.

Read more: Chile and United States discuss benefits of Inflation Reduction Act

Read more: Rio Tinto and world’s largest copper producer forge exploration joint venture in Chile

Argentina stepping over as lithium industry leader

Villarino said that its neighbouring country, Argentina, may take over the leadership as a lithium producer if Chile doesn’t step up in time.

The recent president Javier Milei wants to push Argentina’s energy sector forward and that can lead Chile to become a less prominent player in the lithium industry.

“If Milei’s project works, it’s likely that many investors will prefer to go there, rather than stay or invest here in Chile,” Villarino said. “We are missing a tremendous opportunity and time is being wasted.”

Analysts at S&P Global Commodity Insights looked at Argentina’s potential to become a leading lithium producer and said the country is at the forefront of conversations about meeting the high demand for EV battery components.

Argentina’s strong pipeline of projects may give the country an opportunity to leapfrog Chile in the short term.

 

natalia@mugglehead.com

Follow Mugglehead on X

Like Mugglehead on Facebook

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Lithium

The operation, situated in the Salta province, will produce about 30,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually

Lithium

The company plans to produce up to 3,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of battery-grade lithium carbonate at the Solaroz Brine Project in Argentina

News

He will be attending the G20 foreign ministers' meetings in Rio de Janeiro as well

Lithium

The low price of the battery metal has been a top concern in recent days, fuelling lay offs and hesitancy among investors