SQM gets environmental approval to expand lithium capacity in Chile

By Martim Facada
Published: Wednesday, 03 April 2019

  • SQM can proceed with two-phase plan 
  • More than doubles domestic capacity
  • 120,000 tpy by 2020

Martim Facada 

Local environmental authorities in the Chilean region of Antofagasta have approved lithium miner SQM’s expansion plans.

SQM will raise group-wide capacity to 180,000 tonnes per year over next few years from current capacity of 70,000 tpy. The company is targeting sales of 150,000 tpy of lithium carbonate by 2025.

The capacity expansion plan is in two phases. In the first, which will not require any change to infrastructure, SQM will raise capacity to 110,000 tpy at its existing plants.

Although SQM has not set a date for when it will reach capacity of 110,000 tpy, it has said it aims to have capacity of 120,000 tpy by 2020.

The second phase will require the construction of new infrastructure as well as needing new environmental approvals from the local authorities.

Via an optimization process that is part of the expansion, the company will ultimately use the same volume of water that it currently uses to produce 70,000 tpy to produce 180,000 tpy of lithium carbonate.

SQM’s expansion plans in Chile come in response to increasing demand for lithium compounds around the world.

Over the past few years, SQM has been selling more material than its installed capacity. An increase in capacity will enable SQM to replenish inventories and increase its ability to respond to its customers’ needs for material.
SQM will invest $450 million in this expansion plan as part of the $525 million it has allo-cated to increase production in Chile.