Home Investing News Chile’s ENAMI aims to break ground on first lithium project by 2028

Chile’s ENAMI aims to break ground on first lithium project by 2028

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By Daina Beth Solomon

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s state mining firm ENAMI aims to start construction on its first lithium project in the country as soon as 2027 or 2028, company chief Ivan Mlynarz told Reuters, part of the government’s push to boost its role in production of the battery metal.

ENAMI, which processes copper for local mining companies, has been tasked with spearheading the government’s maiden ventures into lithium alongside state mining giant Codelco.

Chile is the world’s second largest producer of lithium, which is a key material for most batteries that power electric vehicles. The global shift towards EVs has created a rush by carmakers and global powers for the ultralight metal.

ENAMI this month launched a search for a private partner to offer financial backing or operational support for the project at three salt flats known as the Salares Altoandinos in the Atacama region in northern Chile.

Applicants must register by June 7, kicking off a selection process that ENAMI aims to complete in March 2025.

“Right now we are developing the engineering basically so the project can start construction around 2027 or 2028,” Mlynarz said in an interview on Wednesday, noting that the Finance Ministry aims to have new lithium production in Chile by 2030.

“We have in mind partners that will see this through to the end … partners with the financial backing to guarantee that resources are available, and that have the experience to develop a project like this,” Mlynarz added.

Only Chile’s SQM and U.S.-based Albemarle (NYSE:ALB) currently produce lithium in Chile, which has the world’s largest reserves of the white metal.

ENAMI expects to eventually produce about 60,000 metric tons of lithium a year at Altoandinos, Mlynarz said, although exploration is underway to gauge lithium concentration and other data that will allow for more precise estimates.

ENAMI will take into account the amount of lithium available and investment needed to determine the size of the stake it takes in the project, which spans nearly 30,000 hectares of salt flats known as Aguilar, La Isla and Grande.

French lithium company Eramet last year purchased mining concessions in the same salt flats, with the aim to secure approvals for lithium.

Mlynarz said a potential arrangement with Eramet would depend on the type of lithium extraction to be used.

ENAMI in April received proposals from 30 firms including Eramet, Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) and LG Energy to pilot test extraction technology. It will choose five to seven with the aim of using successful technology for future production.

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