MEXICO CITY - Chilean miner SQM, a major producer of lithium, on Wednesday reported a near twelve-fold rise in quarterly profit as it benefited from higher prices of the metal used in electric-vehicle batteries.
Net profit rose to $796-million in the first quarter ended March 31, while revenue nearly quadrupled to $2.02-billion.
The jump came on the back of a 59% surge in lithium sales volume and near seven-fold rise in prices, thanks to the global push towards electrification of vehicles.
SQM CEO Ricardo Ramos had said in March the company hoped to hit production capacity of 180 000 t of lithium in 2022 and the company said in its report that this year's sales volume was expected to surpass 140 000 metric tonnes.
The head of SQM's board announced in April the company planned to invest $900-million through 2022 to increase lithium carbonate and hydroxide production capacity.
Chile, the world's largest producer of lithium, has profited from the rising global demand for electric vehicles. The country controls the lithium sector through mining rights, which it has awarded to some private companies.
President Gabriel Boric, who took office in March, has previously said Chile could create a national mining company, although officials from the Mining Ministry have recently shown themselves to be less optimistic of the prospect.
The state already controls top copper producer Codelco.
SQM and competitor Albemarle have major projects in Chile's Atacam salt flats, which the companies use to extract lithium from below the surface via brine pools.