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Lithium producer SQM, Chile's Codelco agree to start talks with indigenous group

Codelco's logo on a building

Photo by Bloomberg

18th December 2023

By: Reuters

  

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Chile's State copper company Codelco and lithium producer SQM have agreed to establish a roundtable with indigenous communities amid talks over a possible partnership between the two companies in the Atacama salt flat, Codelco said on Friday.

The announcement, which refers to an "eventual alliance" between the two companies, signals movement in Codelco's efforts to reach an agreement with Santiago-based SQM to form a new state-controlled public-private partnership.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric in April tasked Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, to lead efforts to increase state control over strategic lithium projects as demand grows for the white metal, which is a key component in electric car batteries.

The Council of Atacameno Peoples, made up of 18 Indigenous communities, has been pushing for greater participation in the government's lithium strategy.

The roundtable seeks to ensure "the participation of Indigenous communities with a focus on the protection and sustainability of the Salar de Atacama, within the framework of the eventual alliance between Codelco and SQM," Codelco said in the statement.

Codelco said representatives from the local communities, SQM and Codelco will chart out a framework over the next month for the communities' participation.

Codelco Chairman Maximo Pacheco told Reuters on Thursday that he maintains his prediction that the state company will reach an agreement with miner SQM this year.

Edited by Reuters

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