Chile Opens Lithium Mines for Private Operation

The South American country, along with Australia and China, provides 90% of the world's lithium supply

Two of the world’s five largest lithium mines, in the Salar de Atacama region, are located in Chile. They are under strict government control.

But Chile’s mining ministry and InvestChile have begun a process that will allow private investors to declare their “interests and information needs” for the possible exploitation of 26 salt mines for lithium mining in the country. The aim is to develop new projects to enhance the production of this increasingly valuable metal, particularly needed for manufacturing rechargeable batteries.

The goal is to open new mines as early as the end of 2024, focusing on deposits where there is no need to consult with indigenous communities. Mining Minister Aurora Williams told La Tercera newspaper: “We hope that there is indeed interest in the 26 salt basins that make up 18% of the country’s salt area.”

“Many people have expressed interest, any company can participate in the process, no restrictions,” she explained. “We’re starting to collect applications.” At the same time, the minister emphasized that historic industry companies, such as Chile’s SQM or China’s Tianqi, Tshinshang, and BYD could be interested. However, the presence of foreign capital is only possible in 26 salt mines, which account for 18% of such deposits in Chilean territory. Deposits fully or partially protected by the state or potentially falling into this category are excluded from these kinds of transactions.

President Gabriel Boric’s goal is to implement three to five new projects in the country within two years, doubling lithium production.