El Mercurio | Effect on free competition: The knots that arise with respect to the lithium strategy

There are different views on the organic structure of the state-owned company, and on the possible concentration of ownership.

The announcement of the lithium strategy continues to be the talk of the mining industry, given the many details that remain to be resolved, mainly regarding the composition of the agreements between the State and the private sector.

While the focus has been on Codelco, which will have to negotiate with SQM the State’s entry into the operation of the Atacama salt flats, there is less information regarding the role that Enami, a company that owns property in some of the salt flats beyond Atacama, will play.

The mining expert and academic of the Catholic University, Gustavo Lagos, points, for example, to the role that the board of directors of the state-owned company will have, which is currently chaired by the Minister of Mining and is also composed of nine directors, nominated by the President of the Republic, Cochilco, the Institute of Mining Engineers, the Ministry of Finance, Corfo and the National Mining Society.

Regarding the mining union, Lagos’ doubts arise, who points out that a change in the state-owned company’s organization is required, since several lithium producers are partners of Sonami, among them, SQM, Tianqi and Albemarle.

“Enami’s corporate governance should be more transparent and reportable, as in the case of Codelco or Enap; not having members appointed by hand, except by the President of the Republic; that its members come from the Senior Public Management, ending with the representative of Sonami, of the Institute of Mining Engineers, of Corfo. If Enami is going to enter into a business like this, it must have its corporate governance in order”, says Lagos, who adds that in its new role the State, even if it is a minority, will have access to important information.

The director of Energy, Mining and Natural Resources at albagli zaliasnik, Alejandro Montt, says that these issues would be resolved in Enami’s Organic Law, which establishes in Article 13 the rules for conflicts of interest of board members. “Historically, Sonami has participated in the management of Enami to successfully carry out its work to promote metallic mining. To question its participation now in the lithium industry would be to question its involvement with small and medium mining in Chile, which has not occurred and seems to have little foundation”, Montt assures.

Source: El Mercurio, April 26, 2023.