(Adds details and quotes from meeting)
SANTIAGO, April 26 (Reuters) – Chilean lithium miner SQM expects to start talks about lithium with Chilean authorities soon, its Chairman Gonzalo Guerrero said in a letter to shareholders Wednesday.
The South American nation announced last week a plan for a state-led model for the lithium industry where the country would have majority control over new lithium developments in partnerships with the private sector.
“SQM’s experience has allowed Chile to be a world leader in lithium,” Guerrero said in the letter, adding that the company “hopes to soon start conversation with authorities, with the goal of creating value for all involved groups.”
Guerrero also said the company’s 2023-2025 investment plan totals $3.4 billion, including maintenance, of which $1.4 billion was aimed at increasing lithium production in Chile.
The company seeks to increase current lithium carbonate capacity to 210,000 tonnes from 180,000 by the end of 2024 and lithium hydroxide capacity from 30,000 to 100,000 tonnes by 2025.
The plan also has around $450 million for a join venture project in Australia, but “not all in lithium.” Some of the funding will go to increasing plant capacity for iodine, nitrates and others.
On Monday, Economy Minister Nicolas Grau told Reuters that negotiations to increase state control of the Salar de Atacama would begin by mid-year.
The negotiation process will be carried out through the state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer.
SQM general manager, Ricardo Ramos, met this week with state development office Corfo to discuss the government’s lithium plan.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Isabel Woodford and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
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