Chile will consider 81 lithium projects proposals from private sector

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean officials on Tuesday said they will consider 81 proposals for lithium projects across the South American country, putting the country on track to surpass a goal of launching four new projects by the end of 2026.

Chile in April called for proposals in more than two dozen salt flats that contain the battery metal, in line with the government’s aims to boost production. It is currently the world’s No. 2 producer.

The interested firms are mostly based in Chile, as well as Canada, Australia, Switzerland, the United States, China, Singapore, England, Germany and India. They submitted proposals for 16 salt flats as well as other types of deposits containing lithium.

Government officials however declined to name the companies which were interested.

Finance Minister Mario Marcel said the government will announce the process to award lithium extraction contracts next month, and potentially provide updates on projects in April or May of next year.

Officials last month said the mining ministry had received proposals comprising 88 potential projects.

The finalized list of contenders is stronger than expected, Marcel added, and could help Chile move faster to develop new projects by its goal for 2026. President Gabriel Boric’s administration ends in March of that year.

Boric has sought to boost the state role in the country’s lithium industry notably across the Atacama salt flat, which has the highest lithium concentration in the world, while offering less explored deposits up to private developers.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Editing by Daina Beth Solomon and Sarah Morland)