Lithium has become a high-value strategic mineral due to its relevance in the current global energy transition, which requires energy storage solutions and decisive progress on electromobility. Energy transition goals are not expected to be met unless a sustainable supply of lithium is secured in the medium and long term.
Global lithium reserves and mining operations are currently highly concentrated in a small number of countries, and Chile has one of the world’s largest reserves, located primarily in the Atacama Salt Flat.
This represents a major opportunity for the country and offers a roadmap for development in the coming years, as outlined in President Gabriel Boric’s Government Manifesto.
Chile’s National Lithium Strategy addresses this challenge and assumes responsibility for ensuring economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable progress in the development of the lithium industry. It also acknowledges that the salt flats holding Chile’s lithium reserves are complex and unique ecosystems, important desert water reserves, and home to ancient peoples and cultures that must be respected and safeguarded.
Increasing global demand, high prices, and vast lithium reserves in Chile give us reason to be optimistic and in turn require us to act with a sense of urgency, ensuring that the development of this industry is environmentally friendly and respectful of surrounding communities. To achieve this goal, the development of Chile’s lithium industry will be led by the State, with the private-sector participating as a strategic partner throughout the production process, ensuring that stringent social, environmental, transparency, and free competition standards are applied.
The creation of a National Lithium Company will coordinate future public-private partnerships, increasing Chile’s lithium production, attracting new players, and expanding the industry through joint ventures. In the initial stages, state-owned companies Codelco and Enami will act as representatives of the State in the lithium industry, enabling the sustainable expansion of operations in the Atacama Salt Flat and the development of new projects in other Chilean salt flats.
We will seize this historic opportunity through public-private collaboration. Specifically, the State will provide a long-term strategic vision throughout the production cycle, from exploration to added value, in addition to clear regulations to ensure sustainability and reinvestment in the country’s development. Meanwhile, private-sector players will contribute their industry knowledge and experience, capital, technological innovation, and market access.
The development of Chile’s lithium industry must be seen as an opportunity to generate diverse goods and services supply chains that will promote the development of technologies and innovation (upstream or downstream), and other added-value activities in the supply chain, including sophisticated business operations and scientific activities. For example, the battery industry value chain may be developed through the production of cathode, anode, and electrolyte materials in Chile.
We are currently experiencing a cycle of high lithium prices. As such, the National Lithium Strategy aims to ensure responsible use of these funds, and will maintain orderly and sustainable public finances in the long term. For that reason, the temporary component of lithium revenue streams will be used to create a savings fund to finance social, technological, and industrial investments that promote Chile’s sustainable and inclusive development.
We will use the funds generated by the lithium industry to drive our future development, transitioning toward a more diversified and knowledge-based economy, investing in science, technology, and innovation in this and other industries. The creation of a Public Technology and Research Institute for Lithium and Salt Flats, focused on research and development, will support transformations to foster a stronger, more competitive, and sustainable industry that will give rise to new investment opportunities. Knowledge and science will be the cornerstones that enable us to harness this resource in a responsible way for Chile’s development, in line with the most stringent industry standards.