SANTIAGO – The Corfo economic development agency and Rockwood Litio have signed an agreement for technology development and the exploitation of lithium at Chile’s Salar de Atacama, a project that “will double the production of the metal” and generate around $70 million a year for the Treasury, officials said.
The contract calls for Rockwood to invest between $400 million and $600 million over the next four years to increase production of battery-grade carbonate lithium for use in electric vehicles, mobile devices from 24,000 tons to 70,000 tons.
The agreement also covers the development of renewable energy sources.
In addition, technology will developed to produce 5,000 tons of lithium hydroxide extracted from the Salar de Atacama, the South American country’s largest saline deposit, located in the northern region of Atacama.
“Rockwood will pay Chile an additional $70 million to $100 million a year in mining royalties, income tax, commissions to Corfo and other payments,” Economy Minister Luis Felipe Cespedes told reporters.
The rates “are progressive on certified sales to non-related clients, reaching 40 percent in the case of lithium and 20 percent for potassium,” Cespedes said.
The signing of the agreement on Monday was attended by Corfo executive vice president Eduardo Bitran, Rockwood Litio Ltda. general manager Stephen Elgueta and Inter-American Development Bank representative in Chile Koldo Echeverria, among other officials.
Chile is the world’s No. 2 producer of lithium, sharing with Argentina and Bolivia the world’s largest reserves of lithium, which is used in manufacturing batteries and in the energy industry.
Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flat, a dried-up sea bed that stretches over a more than 10,000-sq.-kilometer (some 4,000-sq.-mile) area, is the world’s largest reserve of the planet’s lightest metal.
Lithium-ion batteries are used to power a range of electronic devices, including cellphones, laptops and digital audio players.