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Saudi’s Almar Water explores lithium venture in Chile

Lithium fields in the Atacama desert in Chile. Saudi Arabia’s mining minister Bandar Alkhorayef is due to visit Chile next month Alamy via Reuters
Lithium fields in the Atacama desert in Chile. Saudi Arabia’s mining minister Bandar Alkhorayef is due to visit Chile next month

Almar Water Solutions, a water infrastructure developer and part of Saudi Arabian company Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, plans to partner with Chile’s state-backed Codelco in the Maricunga lithium mining project.

The Spain-based company aims to leverage its technology to extract battery-metal lithium, Reuters reported, quoting CEO Carlos Cosin.

Chile is the world’s second-largest lithium producer and a dominant copper producer. 

“We have three things: financial capacity, local presence and access to the technology,” said Cosin. 

However, the CEO stated that the company is not interested in selling lithium.

Codelco has appointed investment bank Rothschild to source a partner for its Maricunga project as the state attempts to build up the lithium industry. A partner is expected to be finalised next year.

Almar will be able to bring in another strong financial partner if included in a consortium to develop the Maricunga salt flat, Cosin said.

Raw lithium is used primarily in battery manufacture and is extracted via two processes: mining of metal-bearing rocks – which accounted for about 57 percent of global supply in 2023 – and distillation from brine, which accounted for the rest. 

Lithium is one of the most abundant metals on Earth because of its presence in salt water, explains Martin Jackson, head of battery raw materials at metals and mining analyst CRU. 

Saudi Arabia’s mining minister Bandar Alkhorayef is due to visit Chile next month to negotiate a deal to secure lithium to support the kingdom’s ambition to expand its electric vehicle (EV) sector, a news report said.

Alkhorayef will meet with his counterpart in Santiago, Reuters reported, quoting a Chilean government statement.

The report said the two officials will discuss potential lithium industry investments.

Two companies are dominant in the industry – Chile’s SQM and US business Albemarle. In 2023, each commanded about 20 percent of global supply.

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