Economic development is possible if it is done in a
sustainable way, Williams told Industrial Minerals in an
interview, emphasizing that Chilean President Michelle
Bachelete and her cabinet have been working on the
country’s current lithium policy since before
coming into power in 2014.
The "Politica Nacional del Litio y Gobernanza de Salares"
was implemented in 2016. This lithium policy is intended to
promote the sustainable development of the Chilean lithium
industry by taking into account the environment, the economy
and the communities living within the Salars.
"In the Salar of Atacama, where SQM and Albemarle have their
lithium operations, there are 17 communities and it is
important to include them in this policy if we want to build a
sustainable governance of the Salars," Williams said.
The Salars of Maricunga and Pedernales in Chile have yet to
be developed, and Williams told Industrial Minerals that the
Chilean mining ministry is waiting for Codelco to present a
business plan to move forward with the development of future
lithium production operations in these areas.
Chile has 52 Salars between the regions of Tarapaca and
Coquimbo and, as part of the lithium policy, more producers of
different sizes could enter the country to produce lithium and
participate in this plan to develop the industry in a
The recent rapid increase in lithium prices has helped
encourage a new strategic approach toward the Chilean hydric
But high lithium prices are more of a "bonus" than a
determining factor for the implementation of this policy,
Williams told Industrial Minerals, adding that the planning and
creation of the policy predates the rise in prices at the end
Since mid-2015, Chinese domestic lithium carbonate 99.5%
battery grade spot prices have increased rapidly to
$24.19-26.15 per kg, according to IM’s October 26
market assessment, from an average price of $7.66 per kg in
The Chilean government places importance on adding value to
the lithium industry in Chile but of equal importance is the
investment in research and development in the regions of the
Indeed, a main goal of the lithium policy is investment in
research and innovation to promote the generation of shared
added-value that includes the Salars communities and is
sustainable, Williams said.
Ultimately, the government hopes to re-industrialize the
lithium industry in a sustainable way, according to Eduardo
Bitran, the executive vice president of the Chilean Economic
Development Agency (Corfo), as Industrial Minerals reported
Copper, cobalt and solar energy are also part of the Chilean
plan to add value to the lithium industry within the
"We want to link lithium, copper and solar energy in the
regions where lithium is extracted. We believe this triangle is
very important from the research and innovation point of view,
for adding value to the lithium supply chain in Chile in a
sustainable way and by sharing value-added product generated
from this relationship with the communities within the Salars,"
Chile plans to revive its cobalt industry in the region of
La Cobaltera at some point in the future, but Williams told
Industrial Minerals that the government is focusing on
implementing the Chilean lithium policy first.
The success of the agreement between Corfo and Albemarle, and
of similar agreements with SQM in the future, is a priority
for the Chilean government, she added.