Chile’s Codelco sets up lithium subsidiary

Chile’s Codelco, the world's biggest copper producer, is moving forward with its plans to tap into the booming lithium industry by creating Salar de Maricunga S.A., a subsidiary that is expected to help speed up the approval of legislation that allows the exploration and exploitation of the country’s vast deposits of the silver-white metal.

Setting up the new company, with an initial capital of $286,000, is part of Chile’s broader plan conceived by the National Lithium Commission to further develop the country’s lithium sector, which includes opening it to foreign companies.

Codelco is also studying bids received for its Maricunga and Pedernales deposits, which it put up for tender in January.

At the same time, Codelco is studying bids received for its Maricunga and Pedernales deposits, in the northern region of Atacama, after it put exploration rights for those assets up for tender in January.

The company, however, has not disclosed how many companies bid for those deposits, nor has revealed any names, local news outlet El Pulso reported (in Spanish).

Chile is the world's second-largest producer of the metal, which has become an irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries used in high tech devices and electric cars.

The country contains half of the world’s most “economically extractable” reserves of the metal, according to the US Geographical Survey (USGS). It is also the world’s lowest-cost producer, thanks to an efficient process that makes the most of the country’s climate.

Demand for the commodity, frequently referred to as "white petroleum," has been rising as of late, which in turn has caused prices to more than double in the past 18 months.