Codelco Seeks Partner for Maricunga Lithium Project, Targeting 2030 Production

Zinger Key Points
  • Codelco targets 2030 for lithium production at Maricunga, searching for a partner with Rothschild & Co's help.
  • Project includes two phases: initial 20,000 LCE via evaporation ponds, later 30,000 LCE using DLE technology.

Chile's state-owned mining company, Codelco, is targeting the start of lithium production at its Maricunga site by 2030.

The Santiago, Chile-based company is developing the project from scratch and searching for a partner for such an endeavor.

Rothschild & Co is evaluating partner candidates, according to Reuters. Codelco aims to conclude the partner search by the first quarter of 2025.

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The Maricunga site, located in the Atacama Desert, is expected to supply a substantial amount of lithium — an essential metal in electric vehicle (EV) batteries. There are two phases for the project:

  • The first phase of the project will focus on producing 20,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) annually using traditional evaporation ponds, with an initial capital expenditure of $1.2 billion.
  • The second phase, expected to commence later, aims to produce an additional 30,000 metric tons of LCE annually through direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology, with an estimated capital expenditure of $1.1 billion.

Despite President Gabriel Boric‘s mandate to utilize DLE for its environmental benefits, the long-standing tradition of using evaporation ponds suggests that DLE technology is not yet ready for large-scale adoption.

Codelco aims to change this. The recently announced partnership with SQM SQM targets DLE adaptation by 2023. Announcing the partnership at a press conference, Codelco chair Maximo Pacheco addressed the situation regarding Maricunga.

“We are looking for a partner with strong financial backing, proven experience in partnerships, and substantial knowledge of lithium. Our selection process is designed to be extraordinarily open and flexible,” he said.

“We will consider all proposals and evaluate them based on how they align with our strategic objectives,” he clarified, noting that between 30 and 40 companies, including international firms, have expressed interest in the project.

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