Chile eyes state-backed lithium push in far-flung salt flats – by Fabian Cambero (Reuters Canada – December 3, 2019)

SALAR DE AGUILAR, Chile (Reuters) – Chile’s Atacama salt flat may get all the attention when it comes to lithium, but the South American nation is looking to develop two lesser-known deposits of the mineral needed to power a global push into electric cars.

Chile’s mining minister, Baldo Prokurica, told Reuters on a trip to the Atacama region the government had asked state-owned copper giant Codelco and smaller state miner National Mining Company, Enami, to forge ahead with lithium projects in the region.

“It seems to me, to say the least, a sin that companies with lithium holdings like this are not even working them,” Prokurica said on a tour of the Aguilar and Infieles salt flats. “What has been missing here is the will to move forward.”

Chile has the world’s largest reserves of lithium, a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles. But it has struggled to ramp up production amid red tape, environmental concerns and falling global prices.

Lithium giants Albemarle (ALB.N) and SQM SQM_pb.SN have also focused more on the vast Salar de Atacama, a 3,000 square kilometer (1,158 square mile) area with the largest lithium reserves in the country.

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