The Global Resource For Connecting Buyers and Sellers

Rio Tinto, Eramet submit plans to develop lithium extraction tech in Chile

Miners Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) and Eramet (EPA: ERA), along with battery maker LG Energy, were among 30 companies from 12 countries that presented plans to develop lithium extraction technology in Chile’s salt flats, responding to a cal from state-run mining company Enami.

The tender process, kicked off in early March, sought to help Enami choose the best approach to develop untouched salt flats in northern Chile, particularly “Salares Altoandinos” project, spans about 100 square miles in the Atacama region.

“It is crucial for Enami to learn about processes that contribute to the creation of projects with the lowest possible environmental impact,” the ore-processing company said in a statement.

“We seek to collaborate in the construction of a sustainable future, where the production of critical minerals plays a key role in the energy transition and development,” it added.

Enami will now consider carrying out tests with one or more of the bidding companies, it said. 

The Chilean miner is one of two entities assigned to represent the state under President Gabriel Boric’s new public-private model for tapping the country’s lithium reserves, one of the world’s biggest.

Rio Tinto is among the few top miners that are investing in lithium. It has already committed $350 million for its Rincon lithium plant in Argentina, wit production expected by the end of the year. 

France’s Eramet is progressing the Centenario lithium project in Argentina, which is slated to produce about 30,000 tonnes annually of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). This is on top of the 24,000 tonnes targeted in a first phase that will enter production in the second quarter of 2024. 

Eramet has also entered into farm-in agreements and it’s currently seeking exploration and mining rights in northern Chile.

The copper-rich nation recently published a long-awaited list of lithium-bearing salt flats open to private investment. The government’s goal is to increasing local production of the battery metal by 70% in a decade, with three or four new projects under development by 2026. 

Global demand for lithium, according to the Chile’s own projections, will quadruple by 2030, reaching 1.8 million tonnes. Available supply by then is expected to sit at 1.5 million tonnes. 

Lithium carbonate exports represented 5.3% of total Chilean shipments in 2023, down from 8.4% the previous year.

Source: MINING.COM – Read More