SQM updates on delayed Codelco lithium deal; Tianqi cites lack of clarity

Lithium mine of silver peak

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China’s Tianqi Lithium said Friday that several aspects of a deal being negotiated by SQM (NYSE:SQM) with Chilean state-run copper miner Codelco are still not clear.

Tianqi owns a ~20% stake in SQM (SQM), which told shareholders on Thursday that talks with Codelco related to a new lithium partnership are ongoing.

SQM (SQM) plans to transfer mining concessions from the lithium-rich Maricunga salt flat to Codelco as part of a new partnership, the company said at the shareholders meeting, which was held at the request of Tianqi Lithium, a major shareholder.

SQM (SQM) also plans to transfer all assets and contracts related to the Atacama salt flat to the joint venture; the contract with Codelco will allow for continued operations from 2031 through 2060.

The two companies worked out a preliminary agreement in December as part of a government plan to increase state control over the lithium industry in Chile, and the companies were expected to announce final terms this month, but extended the deadline until May.

SQM (SQM) is moving forward with expansions at its Atacama brine extraction and processing operations, Bloomberg reported, even as many peers cut spending and production to cope with a supply glut that sent lithium prices plunging last year.

Harry Byrne

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