Chile Receives Bids for Value-added Lithium Projects

Among the proposals are projects to create batteries, lithium salts, lithium metal and several other materials.

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Chile has received 12 bids from national and international companies interested in manufacturing value-added products from lithium, officials said on Monday (July 10).

State development agency CORFO and investment promotion agency InvestChile issued a call for bids this past spring, and are pleased with the results.

“We’ve had great success because here we’re uniting the global electro-mobility industry with the largest lithium reserves in the world,” CORFO Executive Vice President Eduardo Bitran told journalists.

Lithium demand is set to surge in the coming years as electric vehicles become more common. Lithium, cobalt and graphite are all key components of the lithium-ion batteries used to power these cars.

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“The lithium market is growing and Chile is taking the right steps by creating a local industry based on lithium in order to produce materials for batteries and other lithium value-added products,” lithium expert Daniela Desormeaux of signumBOX told the Investing News Network via phone.

Among the proposals are projects to create “next-generation” batteries, lithium salts, lithium metal and several other materials.

“Battery production is currently concentrated in Asia, but buying from Chile to produce batteries and other lithium products will signal diversification in the market,” Desormaux added.

Chile is the world’s second-largest lithium producer after Australia, with total output of 12,000 MT in 2016. However, the country’s lithium production has flattened in recent years, as only two companies, SQM (NYSE:SQM) and Albemarle (NYSE:ALB), are able to extract brine under leases granted in the 1980s.

Other steps the government is taking to increase production and industrialize the lithium sector include signing a deal with Albermarle; the deal extends the company’s mining lease to 2044 and gives it an additional quota. In exchange, the company has agreed to sell a quarter of its output at preferential prices for use in the value-added products program.

Bitran said the selection process should be completed around January, and that more than one winner could be chosen. Projects resulting from the auction should come online in 2019. 

“I think this is the right time for Chile to take advantage of [the] lithium [momentum], open [to the market] and move forward in the value-added chain,” Desormeaux said.

The companies that have applied to the program are: China’s Sichuan Fulin Industrial Group, SinoVenture Chile, Gansu Daxiang Energy Technology and a joint venture of Shenzheng Metal Tech and Jiangmen Kanhoo Industry (SZSE:300340); Chile’s Molymet, Imelsa and a joint venture of Invermer and Corporacion IDEOJ; Russia’s TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom; South Korea’s Samsung SDI (KRX:006400); US firm Bravo Motor; Belgium’s Umicore (EBR:UMI); and a joint venture of Canada’s Rubystock Financial Capital and Fallingbrook Commodities.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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