Chile: National Strategy for Lithium

In brief

Yesterday evening (Thursday 20 April 2023), President Boric –via national transmission– announced the new National Strategy for Lithium ("Strategy"). The main points of this new Strategy are detailed below.


In more detail

  • The State will have a prominent role on the lithium Strategy. This entails the inception of a 100% stated-owned National Lithium Company ("Empresa Nacional del Litio"). This entity will be –among other tasks– in charge of conducting and organizing the public-private cooperation for the exploitation of the salt flats (or "Salares", e.g., "Salar de Atacama").
  • The Strategy will be set in motion on this year's second semester (June 2023, onwards).
  • While Congress will be discussing the statutory issues surrounding the National Lithium Company, the government will seek –by means of other state owned companies such as Codelco and Enami– to immediately engage with private parties in order to organize and promote the extraction of brine. The details of such engagement are yet to be defined.
  • There are 45 major salt flats in Chile. Of such total amount, 42 of them are currently in conditions to be exploited and 15 of these, in some phase of operational degree. For example in the Maricunga salt flat where Codelco has a Special Operation Agreement ("Contrato Especial de Operación", CEOL). In the same strategic site, companies such as Salar Blanco and Simbalik currently have incipient extraction operations.
  • Moreover, there are other players such as SQM (with an agreement with the State until 2030) and Albermarle (with an agreement, until 2043). These companies already have considerable lithium production. The Strategy contemplates to maintain and uphold their rights. However, it also contemplates to begin –via Codelco– conversations with these companies, in order to begin drawing a new contractual relationship, per the implementation of the Strategy.
  • The National Lithium Company, also encompasses the creation of the Public Institute of Lithium and New Technologies, for the advancement in policies such as I+D generation.
  • Ultimately, there is still some time until the administration takes a more definitive and broke down stance on the (present and future) relationship with private entities and/or investors. The Bill to be sent to Congress concerning the National Lithium Company, or the clarifications granted in the press and/or by means of joint ventures towards private parties, with Codelco and Enami, will shed some light on these matters.

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