ECONOMY NATIONAL

Chile seeks to nationalize lithium industry, minimize extraction impact

Chile plans to nationalize its lithium industry, the president announced on April 20. The proposal seeks to boost the country’s wealth and shift towards a greener production process. The proposal moves to Congress for approval later this year.

President Gabriel Boric revealed a plan to nationalize the country’s lithium industry at the presidential palace on April 20. The plan is set to increase the country’s wealth and link its economic development to a greener economy. The strategy consists of using new extraction technology to minimize the impact on the salt flats’ ecosystems.

“In turn, we will promote research on the salt flats to find out how to better care for them. To do so, we will establish a protection network for the salt flats, fulfilling a commitment to protect 30 percent of their ecosystems by 2030,” Boric said.

Codelco and Enami will represent the proposal. Both are state-owned mining companies. The new initiative will also consider public-private partnerships to expand the lithium industry and to increase national production and attract new partners through joint ventures.

“Along with the development of green hydrogen … This is the best chance we have to transit towards a sustainable and developed economy,” Boric said.

The proposal moves to Congress for approval later this year.

Lithium Triangle

Chile has one of the largest lithium reserves in the world. The country’s Atacama salt flat is part of the “Lithium Triangle,” an area that holds more than half of the world’s lithium reserves. The triangle is made up of parts of Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.

Lithium is an element widely used in batteries. “We can’t afford to waste it. Our challenge is to transform our country to become the main producer of lithium in the world, enhancing its wealth and development,” Boric said.

The nationalization plan’s goals

The plan aims for there to be greater sustainable production in the Atacama salt flat and new projects in other salt flats around the country. The proposal involves several stages:

  • The process of recruiting diverse actors.
  • The creation of the National Lithium Company.
  • The creation of a protected network of salt flats and those that are being exploited. 
  • Modernizing the institutional framework.
  • The creation of a technological and public research institute for lithium and salt flats.
  • The incorporation of the state into the production activity of the Atacama salt flats.
  • The exploration of other salt flats in the country.

Also read:

The High Cost of Lithium Extraction in Chile

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