Some of the biggest players in the global battery supply chain held meetings with Chilean authorities late last year as the country with the biggest reserves of lithium gets ready to open up new extraction areas.
Tianqi Lithium and LG Energy Solution sat down with officials in December, while French miner Eramet met with authorities in late November, according to data released on Chile’s transparency platform. Discussions centered on the government’s public-private model for lithium.
The meetings are the latest sign of interest in tapping giant stores of lithium in brine trapped under salt flats that dot Chile’s northern desert, at a time when demand for electric-vehicle batteries is accelerating. The administration is also looking to encourage downstream investments.
Under President Gabriel Boric’s new model, the state will take a controlling stake in lithium operations considered strategically significant, while allowing private firms to retain control of projects in non-strategic areas. State-owned Codelco and Enami are representing the government in the new partnerships under contracts to be offered this year.
Tesla Inc.’s regional business development manager, Eugenio Grandio, also met with government officials to discuss electro-mobility strategies, the documents show. The company is taking steps to begin operations in Chile, where electric-vehicle penetration is still low despite its battery metal riches.
Korean battery maker LG discussed added-value opportunities in meetings with Economy Minister Nicolas Grau, as well as with Mining Minister Aurora Williams and Jose Miguel Benavente, who heads state development agency Corfo. LG is looking into a cathode processing project with Chile’s top lithium miner SQM.
Executives from China’s Tianqi, already a major SQM shareholder, discussed investment intentions in the framework of Chile’s new lithium policy. El Mercurio reported the meetings earlier on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the disclosure on meetings with Eramet executives mentioned “possible associations with Codelco and Enami.” In September, the French firm said it was ready to roll out its direct lithium extraction technology in Chile as it develops a major project in Argentina.