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Chile will open calls in a month for lithium component producers to compete for preferential pricing on lithium produced by Albemarle, the head of Chile’s CORFO economic development agency said on Tuesday.

CORFO executive vice president Jose Miguel Benavente had originally announced the call would begin in July but said on Tuesday that they would now open calls in “one more month.”

“We have a lot of interest from many companies,” Benavente said, adding the expansion of the production chain could lead to manufacturing batteries within Chile. “That is precisely the spirit behind this proposal.”

In May, Chile gave Albemarle the ability to increase its lithium production by nearly 50%, contingent on developing new technology aimed at more environmentally friendly extraction.

Contracts for Chile’s two current lithium operators, US-based Albemarle and Chile’s SQM, stipulate that a portion of the production will be awarded at preferential prices to firms that develop value-added components.

In 2018, comparable agreements were in place, as Chile initially allocated preferential pricing contracts for Albemarle’s production to three firms, which later backed out due to supply and pricing agreement issues.

Last year, CORFO granted preferential pricing contracts to Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD and China’s Tsingshan Holding Group. However, in May, BYD postponed the start date of their lithium cathode plant, citing “uncertainty.”

“What’s going on now is the normal process of necessary permits needed for those kind of plants,” Benavente said, adding that the BYD deal was moving along within the agreed-upon timeline and parameters.