Indigenous communities suspend dialogue with SQM, Codelco over lithium

16th April 2024 By: Reuters

SANTIAGO  - The four largest indigenous communities in Chile's Atacama salt flat suspended dialogue with state-run copper giant Codelco and lithium miner SQM over expanding lithium mining in the flat, the groups said in a statement on Monday.

Codelco and SQM agreed to start talks with a council of representatives from 18 indigenous communities in December as part of Codelco's efforts to reach an agreement with SQM to form a new state-controlled public-private partnership.

"Despite our communities' efforts, the facts have shown that among the actors involved there is not a true willingness to sustain a dialogue," representatives from the Toconao, Camar, Socaire and Peine communities said in a statement dated April 14 but released on Monday.

The statement added that the other indigenous communities taking part in the dialogue with the companies do not "recognise the distinct realities" of the process.

The indigenous council, SQM and Codelco did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The indigenous groups' announcement comes almost a year after Chilean President Gabriel Boric 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, a key component in electric car batteries.