(Bloomberg) — Lithium heavyweight Chile is drawing interest from South Korean battery makers keen to develop processing plants there, the head of a government agency said.
InvestChile, the South American nation’s foreign investment promotion body, has held meetings with representatives from multiple Korean companies, said the group’s executive director, Karla Flores. The companies are interested in helping Chile turn its vast reserves of semi-processed lithium into materials such as iron phosphate for rechargeable batteries, in part to supply the US market, she said.
“A possibility is that Korean projects here export lithium cathode to the US,” she said in an interview Thursday in Santiago.
Mining giant Chile has been looking to leverage the world’s biggest lithium reserves to move further down the value chain, and Asian companies have been keen to partner up. Last year, Chile granted Chinese companies access to preferential prices for lithium carbonate produced by SQM, the world’s second-largest lithium producer, for use in a cathode factory to be built in the country’s north. Japanese companies have also been looking into making investments in Chile’s lithium sector, Chilean Economy Minister Nicolas Grau said in October.
Unlike Chinese-run projects, lithium processed by Korean companies in Chile may qualify for US incentives to diversify its clean-energy supply chain. Chile has a free-trade agreement with the US.
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