The World’s Lithium King Is Ready to Unleash a Flood of New Supply – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – April 26, 2018)

A little-known Chilean company that until recently churned out mostly crop nutrients may hold a key to the future of electric-vehicle production. And a Chinese mining company is standing ready, poised to grab a big piece of it.

Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA sits on the world’s richest deposit of lithium. It already produces more than 20 percent of the global supply and is about to produce a whole lot more. SQM will at least double and could eventually quadruple lithium capacity, thanks to recent agreements between the company and the Chilean government.

Ramping up production of the mineral, once mined mostly as the main ingredient in anti-schizophrenia drugs, will help meet seemingly insatiable demand from electric-car makers.

“There is a legitimate concern on the side of battery manufacturers about long-term availability of supply,” said Daniel Jimenez, an SQM vice president who recently estimated that the industry will require a capital investment of $10 billion to $12 billion in the next decade to meet demand.

The green light to mine vastly more lithium, combined with pending changes in its ownership structure, has suddenly put SQM in the sights of several global mining companies, including London-based giant Rio Tinto Group.

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