Albemarle wins approval to boost lithium output

Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) has obtained final approval to extend its contract to produce lithium on the Salar de Atacama.

The Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission and the General Comptroller of the Republic approved a series of modifications to the deal requested by ALB which will now be able to produce 80,000tpa Li during the next 27 years.

“The agreement, which supports the principles and goals of the Lithium National Commission, further solidifies Chile as the global leader in the production of value-added lithium products…We believe the Salar de Atacama is the best lithium brine reserve in the world, and we have a responsibility to ensure this strategically important resource is properly managed so that it can continue to provide value for all stakeholders,” said Stephen Elgueta, VP of Albemarle’s Lithium Resources group.

Under the contract, Rockwood is required to build a US$500M lithium carbonate plant which will generate 1,000 jobs in Region II. ALB will also have the option to build a second lithium hydroxide plant. “The only requisite is that it produces lithium hydroxide directly from brine and not from lithium carbonate,” explained CORFO head Eduardo Bitran.

ALB will also be required to sell lithium products – up to 25% of its annual production capacity – at a preferential price to Chilean consumers and to contribute up to US$12.4M annually to supporting R&D in Chile.

“Thanks to this agreement, the Chilean state will receive additional revenues worth US$2.7B and at a time of significant fiscal austerity, this project represents a major contribution,” Bitran told the press.