Chile’s government, which has pledged to establish a state lithium firm to develop the ultralight battery metal, hopes to establish a model for the company by the end of the year, mining minister Marcela Hernando told local paper La Tercera on Sunday.
The South American country is the world’s second-largest producer of lithium, a key component for electric car batteries, with its domestic industry currently dominated by two private firms Albemarle Corp and SQM.
However, the government of new leftist President Gabriel Boric, like administrations in Mexico and Argentina, is keen to get more closely involved in the booming market for lithium, which has seen prices soar over the last year.
Hernando said a specialized group was being formed to define the best design to operate the company.
“We hope to have the proposal for how this company will be as an institution and the business model in which it will operate before the end of the year,” she said.
The minister reiterated that the government was open to the participation of private capital in the firm, although with the State as the main shareholder.
President Boric, who came into office in March, said during the election campaign that Chile should not commit the “historic mistake” of privatizing its resources again and reiterated his interest in creating the company for the development of lithium.
Hernando added that lithium would not be included in the plans to apply a mining royalty, as part of an ambitious tax agenda promoted by the government.
“The evaluations we have made is that it is very complex since lithium is an industry that is not very mature,” she said.
(By Fabian Cambero; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Bill Berkrot)