Chile authorities ratify Rockwood-Corfo lithium deal

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chile's nuclear energy commission (CCHEN) has ratified an agreement signed between lithium producer Rockwood and state development agency Corfo.

The aim of the deal, which had been inked by the two parties in February, is to permit Rockwood to increase its lithium output in the country, local paper El Mercurio reported.

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Approval by the agency – the governmental body in charge of giving the green light to any lithium-related business – was required.

Lithium is considered a strategic mineral by Chile.

CCHEN did not immediately respond when contacted by BNamericas for further information.

The Corfo-Rockwood agreement allows Rockwood to raise production at its Atacama salt flats operations in northern Atacama region (III).

Under the deal, Rockwood can increase investment in the country by US$400mn-600mn over the next four years, which will allow the company to boost production of battery-grade lithium carbonate to up to 70,000t/y from about 24,000t/y currently.

The investment also covers the development of technology to produce 6,000t/y of lithium hydroxide locally.

The agreement extends Rockwood's concessions on the salt flats by an additional 27 years, and Chile is poised to receive between US$70mn and US$100mn more, a year, in royalty payments, economy minister Luis Felipe Céspedes was reported as saying at an event where the MOU was signed.

Rockwood, controlled by US chemical firm Albemarle, and Santiago-based non-metallic and fertilizer group SQM are the only two private companies currently allowed to mine lithium resources in Chile since their concessions were granted prior to the resource being declared strategic in the 1970s.