Codelco defends lithium deal ahead of SQM shareholder meeting

Flamingos at Salar de Atacama, home to lithium mines. (Image courtesy of Dan Lundberg | Flickr Commons..)

Chile’s state copper company Codelco defended its proposed lithium production tie-up with SQM in response to criticism that the negotiation process has been opaque.

The deal is both transparent and beneficial for Chile, Codelco chairman Maximo Pacheco said in a presentation late Tuesday. Initially, the Chilean state will get an estimated 70% of proceeds from new production, rising to 85% from 2031, he said. Pacheco said he couldn’t divulge exact figures because of confidentiality and ongoing talks.

On Wednesday, SQM is holding a shareholder meeting that was requested by its second-largest shareholder Tianqi Lithium Corp. The Chinese firm is seeking further clarity and the right to vote on the proposed Codelco deal.

While SQM management will provide an update on negotiations and answer questions in the meeting, the Santiago-based firm says the deal only requires board approval. Under a framework accord announced late last year, SQM will hand over a majority stake in its brine assets to Codelco in exchange for extending operations for three more decades.

The tensions between SQM and its Chinese shareholder add risk to a deal that would allow the latter to ramp up production. If it’s scrapped, SQM may have to wind down mining operations when its contract expires in 2030.

Tianqi has endured restrictions to SQM’s sensitive information since buying its stake for $4 billion in 2018. SQM’s top shareholder is Julio Ponce.

(By James Attwood)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *