Chile Opens Lithium Salt Flats For Investment

Chile Opens Lithium Salt Flats For Investment

On Tuesday, Chile’s government announced the opening of over two dozen lithium salt flats to private investment while retaining control over the significant Atacama and Maricunga deposits for state extraction. 

President Gabriel Boric’s administration aims to increase state influence in Chile’s lithium industry. Finance Minister Mario Marcel anticipates a potential doubling of Chile’s lithium production within a decade with these new projects. The tender process for 26 salt flats will start in April and end in July, although not all may attract interest. Five salt flats are already in development by state-run companies seeking partners.

Currently, only two companies, Chile’s SQM and U.S.-based Albemarle, extract lithium in Chile, both situated in the Atacama salt flat. The Atacama salt flat boasts the world’s highest lithium concentration, while Maricunga also holds significant levels. 

The government is considering involvement in lithium projects beyond Atacama and Maricunga, albeit without majority stakes. Approval from local indigenous communities may be required for private projects, contingent on their regional impact. Plans for a national lithium company are being evaluated, along with allocating 30% of salt flats for environmental protection, details of which are pending.