Chile to invite bids on value-added lithium tech in April – by Rosalba O’Brien and Felipe Iturrieta (Reuters U.S. – January 17, 2017)

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SANTIAGO – Chile will hold a tender in April to encourage companies to use its vast lithium resources to move it up the value chain with cathode or battery production, the head of the country’s development agency told Reuters on Tuesday.

It is pressing ahead on deals with international firms as relations remain bitter with local lithium producer SQM SQM_pb.SN, where royalties arbitration is expected to take at least another year, said Eduardo Bitran, executive vice president of Corfo, which manages Chile’s lithium leases.

The price of lithium, a rare bright spot in commodities, has rocketed in recent years and is expected to continue to rise alongside demand. Lithium plays a small but essentially irreplaceable part in powering electric car batteries.

The tender to develop value-added lithium technology in Chile should conclude by November with two Chinese companies and a Korean associate having shown interest, Bitran said in an interview late Monday

The government’s transparency website shows representatives from battery maker Vision Group and rare earths firm Kanhoo met with Bitran last November to present a proposal “for a lithium hydroxide plant and a lithium battery plant” in Chile.

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