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Chile's state-owned mining giant forms lithium extraction alliance
Chile's state-owned mining giant forms lithium extraction alliance
by AFP Staff Writers
Santiago (AFP) Dec 28, 2023

Chile's state-owned Codelco mining company, the world's top copper producer, on Wednesday announced an "unprecedented" alliance with private mining giant SQM, aiming to nearly double lithium extraction in the Atacama desert.

The companies will partner from 2025 to 2060, working in the desert to extract 300,000 tons per year of lithium, used to manufacture electric car batteries, as well as those in cell phones and other electronics.

In 2022, SQM extracted 168,000 tons of lithium there.

"This is an unprecedented milestone in the Chilean mining industry and a concrete advance to achieve fair and sustainable development," Chilean President Gabriel Boric said on national television.

Codelco accounts for about eight percent of the global copper supply while Chile's SQM is a large lithium exploration company.

Chile sees a bright future for itself as part of the global green revolution. The Atacama desert holds one of the world's largest reserves of lithium, a soft metal.

The demand for lithium has grown strongly in recent years as the world seeks to move away from fossil fuels to curb global warming.

In April, Boric's government announced a "national lithium strategy," which would include state control of the entire production cycle of lithium -- of which Chile is the world's second largest producer.

Lithium represented 8.2 percent of total exports of Chile in 2022, with China, South Korea and Japan as the main destinations.

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