Diario Financiero | National Lithium Policy: an opportunity

Apr 27, 2023

After many years, this opens up the possibility of developing projects […] since our regulations, due to their complexity, prevented it“, said our Director of Mining and Natural Resources, Alejandro Montt.

Because of my trajectory and my ideas, I know that in many of those present here I can arouse suspicions, and I confess that I also have them in front of many of you“. With these words, President Gabriel Boric began his speech at ENADE last Thursday. That same day, in the evening, he announced the expected “National Lithium Policy“.

Reactions were immediate, and to date there has been a certain dissatisfaction in the world of trade unions, mainly because of what would be a predominant role of the State to the detriment of private initiative. Several days after the announcement, it may be positive to review the National Lithium Policy in a spirit of rescuing some relevant initiatives, without biases or suspicions.

First, after many years, the possibility of developing projects is opened. Apart from the operations of SQM and Albemarle, thanks to contracts with CORFO, and a Special Lithium Operation Contract (CEOL) granted to a subsidiary of Codelco, the rest of the actors did not see a clear path to be able to go ahead with their projects, since our regulation, due to its complexity, prevented them from doing so. Now that reality is changing and it will be possible, through public-private partnerships, to develop the industry and eventually recover the position of the largest lithium producer in the world.

Second, the new policy will make it possible to implement new technology that reduces environmental impacts in complex ecosystems such as the salt flats, which, together with the effort to involve the territories and communities, will help to provide political and social sustainability to the projects, with the consequent additional security for investors.

Third, a path of aggregation of capacities in the lithium value chain, from extraction to recycling applications, is being resolutely started. This, through the creation of a Lithium and Salars Technological and Research Institute, in addition to the recent designation of BYD as a specialized producer for the production of LFP-type lithium cathodes, fundamental elements for the operation of batteries.

It can be seen that this policy is aware of the need to listen to industry and community stakeholders, which is why it establishes a process of dialogue and participation as the first milestone. This will be the opportunity to delve into the business model, possible strategic projects, the possible control of Codelco, Enami and the Empresa Nacional del Litio, and the participation of the State in the Salar de Atacama.

Taking again the words of the President at ENADE: “Let us not let ourselves be carried away by prejudices, let us try to look at ourselves“. We must hope that this process of dialogue that is beginning will be with a high level of vision, finally seeking the best for our country. Only in this way will we be able to leave behind the biases and prejudices that have done us so much harm and fight for world leadership which, if we all do our part, we can undoubtedly achieve.

Source: Diario Financiero, April 26, 2023.

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