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[Politics] Boric announces long-awaited National Lithium Strategy: Public-private partnerships will be state-controlled

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The wait is over. After months of intense calls from various sectors and in the midst of the urgency to take advantage of the price "boom" that lithium is experiencing, President Gabriel Boric announced the National Lithium Strategy on national television tonight. "Chile has one of the largest lithium reserves in the world. A mineral that, being in the energy storage batteries of electric cars and buses, is key in the fight against the climate crisis, and an opportunity for economic growth that is unlikely to return. to repeat in the short term", began by pointing out the head of state. He pointed out that "together with the development of green hydrogen and the knowledge that is generated in our universities and communities, it is the best chance we have to move towards a sustainable and developed economy. We cannot afford to waste it."

The heart of the strategy -and perhaps the point that generated the greatest expectation- has to do with the role that private companies will play in mineral exploration and exploitation. Thus, the President announced that this strategy will be based on a public-private articulation, but in all scenarios control will be held by the State, through -at least in the short and medium term- Codelco and Enami, the only state companies with mining turn. In this way, any private party, whether foreign or local, that wants to exploit lithium in Chile must associate with the State, where the latter will necessarily have control and the private party may aspire to a maximum of 49.9% of the participation. A strategy is also planned to enter the Salar de Atacama, the only one in which lithium is currently produced in Chile and whose exploitation is in the hands of the companies SQM and Abemarle until 2030, according to the current concession contracts. Although the Government does not plan to terminate these contracts early, it will try to negotiate -through Codelco- an association with these companies, where, yes, the State is the controller.




"I have instructed Corfo, the institution that manages our lithium reserves, to in turn mandate Codelco to search for the best ways to achieve, from now on, the participation of the Chilean State in the extraction of lithium in the Salar de Atacama. Thus , Codelco will be our representative before the companies that are currently in the Salar to have a State participation before the expiration of the current contracts," Boric explained. "Our challenge is for our country to become the main lithium producer in the world, thus increasing its wealth and development, distributing it fairly while protecting the biodiversity of the salt flats," he stressed. In addition, the President announced the creation of a National Institute of Lithium and Salt Flats, dedicated to research, which does not need a law to materialize. On the other hand, the one that does need to go through Congress is the National Lithium Company, confirmed by the President, and whose creation will undergo a pre-dialogue process with communities and legislators, so that when the project enters Parliament, there will already be a prior discussion. In any case, an extensive debate is expected before the National Lithium Company sees the light -a quorum of 4/7 is needed in Congress-, for the same reason, the preponderant role that Codelco and Enami will have at the beginning. Thus, from the Government they understand that this state company is rather a future issue, so they will use the current tools to develop the industry. Currently, the measured lithium reserves in Chile are those in the Atacama salt flat, so they do not account for what exists in other parts. Even so, the country is the third in the world in terms of "white gold" reserves, behind Bolivia and Argentina. In this sense, the head of state explained that "this policy will also be a crusade to explore (salt flats), evaluate their extractive potential and also, very importantly, delimit the protected areas and lagoons where operations will not be installed."



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