Chile-based lithium and potash producer Sociedad
Quimica y Minera de Chile SA (SQM) has terminated the
employment of its now-former CEO of 25 years, Patricio
SQM said that Contesse had submitted a letter to
the board inviting them to consider his position at an
extraordinary meeting held on 16 March.
"After deliberating at length and considering the
best interest of the company, the board agreed to terminate
Contesse’s employment with SQM," the company said,
giving no indication as to why the termination had taken
Patricio de Solminihac Tampier was elected
unanimously by the board as the new CEO of SQM – a
decision that was welcomed as "good news" by brokers BanChile
in a note on the move. Tampier’s appointment was
"a first step towards confronting market worries linked to the
company’s corporate governance," BanChile
Newswire Bloomberg suggested that
SQM’s board had "clashed" over the investigation
of Chilean prosecution authorities into alleged payments to
politicians by SQM.
SQM has been close to the centre of a number of
scandals in recent years. Former Deputy Mining Minister, Pablo
Wagner, who is currently in police custody, was formally
indicted in January 2015 for forging public documents related
to an SQM bid to increase its lithium production capacity.
Chile’s Servicio de Impuestos
Internos (SII) tax office took receipt of volunteered documents
relating to the lithium tender investigation on 6 March. SQM
said that the Chilean tax code’s rules state the
SII can request and review any information it has submitted to
ensure tax law compliance.
Shortly after announcing the departure of
Contesse, SQM said it would voluntarily comply with a demand by
Chile’s internal revenue service to hand over tax
information for the last six years. Contesse had tried to block
the move but was rejected by the courts.
However, the news prompted the resignation of
three of SQM’s directors, Wayne Brownlee,
Alejandro Montero and Jose Maria Eyzaguirre, which hold senior
positions at North American fertiliser company PotashCorp.,
with the company accusing SQM of failing to "authorise a review
[of the Chilean Public Prosecutor’s allegations]
which meets the standards we expect".
SQM’s shares fell sharply on the New
York Stock Exchange following the removal of Contesse, from
$22.10/share to $18.65/share on 17 March.
In another scandal, the company’s
largest shareholder, Julio Ponce, the billionaire son-in-law of
former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who led the country
from 1973-1990, was fined $70m in 2014 for his part in an
insider trading scheme which ran from 2009 to 2011.
Ponce’s fine was the largest ever
levied against a single person in Chile.
Lithium News Review
Orocobre has bagged its first customer order for
supply from its Olaroz Lithium project in Northern Argentina,
the company said in its half year accounts statement released
The company said production is expected to begin
in the second quarter of 2015, ramping up to 17,500 tonnes/tpa
by the fourth quarter of this year.
Orocobre is investing $28m in the ramp-up phase,
using funds raised by a $40m share placement and a $15m share
purchase plan. Global car manufacturer Toyota is funding 25% of
the Olaroz Lithium project, and Orocobre 75%.
The Olaroz Project is a joint venture (JV)
between Orocobre, Toyota and Singapore’s Jujuy
Energia y Mineria Sociedad. It is operated through Sales de
Jujuy, a subsidiary of the Singaporean business, and the equity
interest is Orocobre 66.5%, Toyota 25% and Jujuy Energia y
Mineria Sociedad del Estado 8.5%.
Because of delays in completing the last two
circuits of the lithium carbonate plant at the end of last
year, the group now has a substantial brine inventory available
for the processing of 24,000 tonnes lithium carbonate
equivalent, the group said.
Outotec to improve Keliber’s
lithium carbonate process
Finland-based mining company Keliber Oy has
engaged fellow Finnish technology group Outotec to help it
improve the production of lithium carbonate from ore taken from
the Lantta deposit in its Central Ostrobothnia lithium project
Outotec has previously researched the lithium
carbonate production process for Keliber at its facility in
Pori, Finland, and has proved the process developed by Keliber
for producing lithium from spodumene concentrate is technically
efficient and valid.
Outotec has now commenced a test programme to
further improve the process using a feedstock concentrate
produced at GTK laboratories in Finland.
The programme encompasses all the necessary
process stages, from calcining to crystallisation of the
lithium carbonate product, and is seeking to define the process
parameters and the right equipment configuration.
Keliber hopes to produce battery grade material,
which will serve as product samples for Keliber’s
pre-marketing efforts. Outotec will also provide an input to a
pre-feasibility study scheduled for completion in Q3 2015.
Keliber expects the test programme will be
completed by the end of Q2 2015.
Rodinia nets $408,000 via asset
TSX-V-listed Rodinia Lithium is raising $408,046
through the sale of 1,166 ha (11.66km2) of mining
rights to an unnamed Argentinian mining company.
The mining rights are situated within the
group’s Centenario and Ratones properties located
in Argentina, according to a company announcement in March.
The proceeds from the sale will go towards
strengthening Rodinia’s balance sheet. The company
has made a previous move in recent months to bolster its
financial position on paper and reduce debt.
In 2014, the company awarded 15.4m shares to
Aberdeen International in exchange for settling its $998,583
debt pile owed to Aberdeen. The transaction means that Aberdeen
now owns 13% of the group’s share
"The properties in which the company currently
has an interest are in the exploration and development stage,
as such the company is dependent on external financing to fund
its activities," the group explained in its interim financial
statement in September 2014.