Codelco’s lithium assets lure big sector companies: CEO – by Nicole Mordant (Reuters U.S. – March 1, 2017)

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. – International and domestic companies have expressed interest in partnering with Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer, to develop its lithium assets, the Chilean state-owned company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

In a wide-ranging interview, CEO Nelson Pizarro said Codelco was sticking to a shrunken capital expenditure program to revive and expand its copper assets unveiled last year amid weak copper prices, despite a rebound in prices by nearly a third since November.

Pizarro also said he expected “more difficult” labor negotiations at Codelco’s flagship El Teniente mine early next year as workers’ demands for higher wages and benefits clashed with the company’s need to invest in its aging mines.

Codelco is due to make its decision by the end of March on a partner to help it develop its lithium assets, Pizarro said on the sidelines of the BMO mining and metals conference. Companies had until Feb. 3 to state their interest.

Lithium, a small but irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries used in electric cars and mobile phones, is one of the hottest commodities with prices more than doubling in the past 18 months. Most of the world’s lithium is produced in Australia and Chile. “The big players in the industry are interested,” Pizarro said.

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