Australia Outpaces Chile in Lithium Production
Australia is now the world’s largest lithium producer. Data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that it has taken over Chile’s spot as the leading lithium producer.
The country produced 18,700 tonnes of lithium in 2017. The spike in production comes from record output at two major mines: Mt Cattlin (owned by Galaxy Resources) and Mt Marion (owned by Neometals).
Chile produced only 14,100 tonnes of the metal in 2017. Its market share dropped from 37.6% in 2016 to 32.8% in 2017.
On the other hand, Australia’s market share increased from 36.8% to 43.5% in the same time frame.
The Chilean government is confident that it will replace Australia as the major producer of lithium soon. This is because the country’s main lithium producer Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM), in partnership with Corfo, is expanding its production capacity from 48,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes. It aims to produce 100,000 tonnes by 2019. Corfo is a development agency in Chile.
CEO Patricio de Solminihac said: “We plan to increase our capacity in Chile in three different stages and continue with the developments of our projects in Argentina and in Australia.”
SQM expects 2018 sales volumes to reach approximately 55,000 mt as it increases production. The company says it will see additional sales volumes during the second half of 2018.
The government is also creating a committee to supervise lithium contracts the state has with SQM and US-based Albemarle Corp. They believe these deals will position the country as a top producer of the white metal. The committee will ensure that SQM and Corfo follow concession agreements in the Atacama salt flats.
In related news, Chile’s development agency Corfo filed a complaint to stop Chinese lithium producer Tianqi from acquiring a stake in SQM. They believe the deal would give China an unfair advantage in the race to secure resources to develop electric vehicles.