LITHIUM CONF: Chile to present new lithium mining rules next week, ministry says

The Chilean government expects to publish new lithium mining concession rules next week, in hopes that “clearer regulation” will boost projects in the country, deputy mining minister Pablo Terrazas said at Fastmarkets’ 11th Lithium Supply and Markets Conference.

“We have decided that Chile needs to increase its lithium production, and President Sebastián Piñera gave the ministry of mining the mandate to do so,” Terrazas told delegates to the event in Santiago on Tuesday June 11. “This national lithium policy should be announced next week.”

Chile wants to lead South America in lithium output, to fulfil the demand growth expected to arise over the next decade. Most analysts and market participants believe that global lithium demand could reach 1 million tonnes per year by 2025, compared with less than 300,000 tonnes in 2018.

The country believes that new projects are needed if supply is to meet consumption, and plans to allow for larger investments under the new regulations, the deputy minister added.

“Chile is focused on making rules clearer for the industry, such as regulating the granting and concession processes, and allowing both private and state-owned companies to participate in this,” Terrazas said.

SQM and Albemarle are the largest lithium producers in Chile. Codelco and Enami, both of which have the Chilean government as sole shareholder, are also exploring mining deposits to assess whether lithium operations are viable.

“We have a window [of opportunity] to invest in lithium, and want the companies to succeed in doing so,” Terrazas added.

Chile changed its regulations regarding lithium exploration in 1979, when the administration under Augusto Pinochet declared lithium to be a strategic asset for the country. Since then, no major project in new deposit areas has been launched, Terrazas said.

At the same time as Chile has internal discussions on regulations, it also wants to lead a joint effort with Argentina and Bolivia, which have large lithium resources, to establish a common standard for the material on the South American continent, as well as a common methodology to measure resources and reserves.

Fastmarkets’ domestic price index for battery-grade lithium carbonate, min 99.5%, was last assessed at 74,458 yuan ($10,745) per tonne ex-works China on June 6, compared with 74,686 yuan per tonne a week before.

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