SQM Outbids Posco for Permit to Mine Lithium in Chile Desert

Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA, the world’s largest lithium producer, won a license to tap a new deposit of the light metal in Chile, outbidding South Korea’s Posco and local rival Grupo Errazuriz.

SQM, as the company is known, was granted a license to extract as much as 100,000 metric tons after bidding 19.3 billion pesos ($40.6 million), Chile’s mining deputy minister Pablo Wagner said at a Santiago event today.

Lithium demand may triple in the next 8 years on wider use of electric vehicles powered by lithium batteries, Wagner said. Santiago-based SQM supplies about 31 percent of the world’s lithium from the Atacama Salt Lake in northern Chile.

Lithium is considered a “strategic” resource under Chilean laws, which limit new companies seeking permission to extract it. Princeton, New Jersey-based Rockwood Holdings Inc. also mines lithium in Chile under license.

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