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CHILE HAS ALL THE ASSETS TO BECOME THE LITHIUM WORLD LEADING PRODUCER

On October 10th, the Ministry of Mining and the Alta Ley Corporation, with the collaboration of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, held the Seminar “Emerging Technologies of Lithium Extraction and Processing”, where national and international exhibitors presented modern systems of Processing of this white mineral.

If you want to know the topics addressed and exhibitors of the Seminar enter here: https://corporacionaltaley.cl/litio-tecnologias-verdes-mayor-recuperacion-y-alta-pureza-se-perfilan-como-la-mineria-del-futuro/

Is Chile an attractive country to invest and develop projects linked to lithium?

Guillaume de Souza, founder of Adionics:

Yes, Chile is an attractive country for lithium projects due to the high quality and quantity of lithium resources, but also thanks to the political and economic stability of the country. In addition, there are now 15 new lithium exploitation projects in Chile in salt flats other than Atacama, which opens up opportunities.

Hubert Porte, representative of Eramet in Chile:

Chile is undoubtedly a very attractive country to invest and develop lithium-related projects for three main reasons: First, despite the particular legal context of lithium and its strategic nature, the general Chilean economic and political context and the quality of Chilean infrastructures are very favorable factors for the investment of foreign companies in mining and metallurgy. Secondly, Chile also has experience in lithium extraction and export and has developed a very favorable lithium industrial network of experts to develop new projects. Finally, the quantity and quality of lithium deposits available are remarkable; Chile has a very interesting salt potential, some of those with the highest concentrations of lithium worldwide and can be developed in a very competitive and sustainable way.

Ricardo Capanema, representative of Solvay:

Definitely yes. Chile is a country with a long history of development in mining and with great stability for long-term investments. Fortunately, the country has perhaps the most attractive lithium reserve in the world and has all the conditions, and I would add the obligation to develop the exploration of the reserves and production of lithium products that meet the growing future demand, driven by electrification of mobilization.

Chile has to boost that industry and position itself as the leading country in that important input, just as it is for copper.

Federico Palacios, Tenova representative:

Chile is definitely an attractive country to invest and develop projects linked to lithium. Due to the quality of its resources, due to the high technical level of its workforce due to the mining culture of the country and the geographical conditions of northern Chile, that allows for low-cost processing.

Emilio Bunel, professor of the Faculty of Chemistry and Engineering of the Pontifical of the Catholic University of Chile:

Chile has the largest proven lithium reserves in the world, so we are an attractive country for foreign or national investors interested in developing projects related to the production of lithium raw materials required by the growing increase in global electromobility. Given the conditions of the international electromobility market, the initiatives that would have the greatest impact could be to focus on 1) increasing global lithium production in Chile by entering new actors to operate the multitude of salt flats that exist in our territory 2) getting the Lithium carbonate and hydroxide production is consistently battery grade.

Víctor Rodríguez, senior analyst at CRU:

According to the USGS, Chile has the largest lithium reserves in the world. Likewise, two leading producers with decades of experience in the industries whose operations are the most competitive globally are based in the country. Therefore, Chile is an attractive investment destination and that is reflected, among other things, in the important capacity expansions that SQM and Albemarle are carrying out. However, it is also worth mentioning that the complex regulatory framework associated specifically with lithium makes it difficult for new actors to enter. In that sense, other countries participating in the industry, such as Australia and Argentina, present more flexible legislation for investors.

Juan Pablo Zorrilla, general manager South America GHD:

This question, from our vision, has several edges. First, a country will be attractive to investors depending on some factors such as: political and economic stability, trade agreements, environmental regulations, agreements with stakeholders, among others. If we analyze the case of Chile, within the region it has sustained stability during the last decades with constant economic growth, being in many cases cited as an economic model of growth and stability for the region. This indicates that yes, Chile is an attractive country for investment and development of lithium projects.

However, in recent years there have been issues that should be considered as priorities by the authorities to maintain the incentive to invest in these types of projects. One issue is water management, since the salt flats with the greatest amount of reserves and resources are mainly located in the Atacama region, which today has water supply restrictions. This should generate a wake-up call, since any project requires it, and although the demand for lithium is high, and consequently its price, this fact can turn potential investors to see a scenario with a higher level of uncertainty that encourages investment analysis in other countries or more attractive markets.

Where are the opportunities for Chile to become a world leader in lithium?

Guillaume de Souza, founder of Adionics:

I am convinced that in the medium term the extraction of lithium from the salt flats will be much cheaper and more ecological than the extraction of lithium from mineral rocks. Suddenly, the countries of the lithium triangle, and especially Chile for the reasons mentioned above, have before them all the assets to become the world leader in the production of lithium. To this is added the exceptional luminosity of Chilean salt flats that are very conducive to the development of low-cost renewable solar energy and its industrial use in the manufacture of high value-added products such as metallic lithium and other electrochemical products.

Hubert Porte, representative of Eramet in Chile:

Despite the advantages mentioned above, the Chilean lithium industry has not yet experienced the development it deserves. Today, only two companies are producing lithium in Chile and only one new project is requesting permits to obtain an exploitation right. Likewise, only one CEOL has been granted in the last 20 years and the granting of this CEOL to a public company has triggered a legal battle with private actors present in the same salar. Despite several attempts, the various governments have not yet managed to establish sufficiently attractive conditions to encourage the participation of other global lithium actors and several of them after a first rapprochement with Chile have chosen to invest in Argentina despite economic conditions and a priori policies more adverse than those of Chile. The condition for Chile to meet again as a world leader in lithium is the application of a “National Lithium Strategy” that establishes more open rules to allow international actors to participate in the national lithium industry.

Ricardo Capanema, representative of Solvay:

In summary, the opportunities are to improve production efficiency and flexibility of the end products of lithium, through an alternative process that allows to produce brines quickly, inexpensively, sustainably and flexibly, that is, it allows the production of different salts of Li as final product.

Federico Palacios, Tenova representative:

Chile has a great opportunity to lead the transformation of traditional technology to one with less environmental impact, where it is not necessary to evaporate millions of cubic meters of water from the driest desert in the world. Chile has skilled labor, with hydrogeological resources in the multiple salt flats in the north of the country and with an environmental authority that increasingly values ​​technologies with less environmental impact.

This added to the potential of northern Chile in the generation of solar energy allows a process at low cost and with an environmental impact significantly less than the conventional process.

Emilio Bunel, professor of the Faculty of Chemistry and Engineering of the Pontifical of the Catholic University of Chile:

As explained in the previous point, Chile should focus on the production of raw materials currently required to manufacture lithium batteries. At the same time, Chilean technological entities should be informed of the evolution of technologies in order to understand the future lithium market. Fortunately, the batteries of the future will continue to use lithium. However, the raw materials to be used will not only be carbonate or lithium hydroxide and new materials will enter the market. For example, solid-state batteries that are in the near horizon will require metallic lithium and lithium salts that we do not produce in Chile today.

Another opportunity that would allow the country to develop advanced projects in the field of lithium batteries is its recycling. With the increase in the electrification of public and private transport in the country it will be attractive to recycle batteries. Various battery recycling alternatives are known that include reactivating chemical components or simply converting them into basic raw materials. This would provide a different alternative to how to start thinking about adding value to lithium and at the same time developing the capabilities to build batteries that are totally non-existent in Chile today.

Víctor Rodríguez, senior analyst at CRU:

Chile is already a world leader in the production of lithium carbonate, a product with greater added value than, for example, the lithium concentrate produced by Australia. And it will also play a more important role in lithium hydroxide once the capacity expansion projected by SQM is finished. The challenge is to attract investments in downstream processes, where Chile’s competitive advantages are not so obvious. That said, I believe that the country has an important opportunity to become a world-class center on R&D and technology issues, for example in brine extraction and processing.

Juan Pablo Zorrilla, general manager South America GHD

In our opinion the opportunities are in:
1.- Great political and economic stability compared to the rest of the region.
2.-Varied agreements and trade agreements with the world.
3.- There is great knowledge in the production of Lithium Carbonate since two of the largest companies in the world are in our country.
4.- Have large reserves and lithium resources that are potentially attractive for exploitation as they allow their extraction with the lowest costs worldwide.
5.- There are human and technological resources to focus on developing new technology that involves the use of this mineral to increase its added value and/or migrate to the production of other lithium products as market requirements are modified.