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Chile wants 3 or 4 new lithium projects running in 2026, finance minister says

Published 03/02/2024, 04:33 PM
Updated 03/02/2024, 06:26 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chile's Finance Minister Mario Marcel attends a press conference with U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen (not pictured) at the Finance Ministry building in Santiago, Chile, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo
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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile wants to have three or four new lithium projects operational by 2026, the country's Minister of Finance Mario Marcel said on Saturday.

The South American country - the world's largest copper producer and the second-largest producer of lithium - initiated a policy last year to increase state control of the strategic metal needed in batteries for electric vehicles.

Marcel spoke following a meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who has been touring the country.

On Saturday, Yellen visited the U.S. lithium producer Albemarle (NYSE:ALB) in northern Chile, saying expanded U.S.-Chilean ties would benefit both countries, improve energy security and help achieve key climate goals.

There are currently only two producers of lithium in Chile - Albemarle and SQM - with investors still waiting for the left-wing government of President Gabriel Boric to define its national lithium strategy as it seeks public-private partnerships to develop its lithium salt flats.

© Reuters. Chile's Economy Minister Mario Marcel delivers a speech during the visit of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (not pictured) to the Lithium Conversion plant of U.S. lithium producer Albemarle, in La Negra, Antofagasta, Chile, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Cristian Rudolffi

Earlier this week, Chile's mining minister said the government had hoped to finalize lithium exploration tenders in the first quarter of this year for private companies.

Chile's state-owned copper mining company, Codelco, has been selected to represent the Chilean state in the new public-private model for lithium as Boric seeks to expand the long-stalled industry.

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