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Top lithium miners eye partnership with Chilean government

Some of the world’s top lithium miners including Tianqi Lithium Corp. (SHE: 002466), LG Energy Solution (KRX: 373220) and Eramet SA (EPA: ERA) have met with Chilean government representatives in the past two months to explore potential partnerships to develop the country’s vast resources of the battery metal.

Data released on Chile’s transparency platform shows the three companies and Tesla’s representatives held meetings with authorities to discuss the new public-private lithium exploitation model announced in April.

Under President Gabriel Boric’s ambitious plan, any company wishing to explore for or mine lithium in the copper-rich nation must be in a partnership with the government, with the state holding a controlling stake.

The strategy aims to expand the extraction of lithium while using pioneering environmentally-friendly technology and including the input of local Indigenous communities.

Executives from China’s Tianqi, already a major SQM shareholder, discussed investment intentions in a meeting in December. So did LG Energy, while France’s Erament had approached authorities in November to explore an alliance in the 120,000-hectare lithium concession it owns in the Atacama region.

According to local paper El Mercurio, Tesla’s regional business development manager, Eugenio Grandio, also met with government officials to talk about strategies for electric mobility.

Tesla executives had met with the ministers of foreign affairs and mining in early 2023, just weeks before Boric announced the country’s new lithium strategy.

The two largest lithium producers, Albemarle (NYSE: ALB) and SQM (NYSE: SQM), already have operations in the country, which is the world’s second largest producer of the battery metal.

Only day before the end of 2023, Chilean lithium miner SQM managed to ink a deal with copper giant Codelco for the future development and production of the metal in the Atacama salt flat, in a tie-up set to kick off in 2025 and run through 2060.

Albemarle’s current contract with Chile expires in 2043, but CEO Kent Masters has said he is open to negotiating before the deadline.

 

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