24 April 20243 minute read

Chile’s National Lithium Strategy: Government opens Request for Information from mining companies and associations

On April 15, 2024, by means of Exempt Resolution No. 907, Chile’s Mining Ministry approved the Procedure for Issuing a Request for Information for Projects for the Exploration, Extraction and Processing of Lithium Contained in Salt Flats or Other Types of Deposits (hereafter referred to as the RFI). The release represents a major step in the country’s National Lithium Strategy.

Key aspects of the RFI

The RFI’s general purpose is to design the process to grant special lithium operation contracts (CEOLs), based on updated information in connection with potential interest over salt deposits.

Pursuant to the RFI’s guidelines, interested parties must (i) provide corporate and financial information regarding its company or association; (ii) identify the salt flats or other deposit (eg, saline lakes) of interest; (iii) provide a general description of the project that would be developed, including timeframes, estimated investment, lithium extraction methods, and products to yield and market; and (iv) demonstrate relevant experience, including lithium projects developed or under development, whether those projects are upstream or downstream, and relevant technological capabilities.

Based on information released so far, the following salt flats would be completely or partially available for private initiatives under the RFI:

Table - Lithium RFI

Consequently, the geographical areas expressly excluded from the RFI process are the following:

  • The Atacama and Maricunga Salt Flats, as they have been defined as strategic
  • The Pedernales, Grande, Infieles, Aguilar, and La Isla Salt Flats. These salt flats have been entrusted to Codelco and Enami, which lead the development of projects implementing public-private partnerships
  • National Parks, National Reserves, and Natural Monuments
  • High-elevation Andean saline systems included in the list proposed by the Lithium and Salt Flats Committee to the Council of Ministers for Sustainability and Climate Change. According to the RFI, protected areas will be designated for the creation of the Protected Salt Flats Network, which will encompass these saline systems

Regarding the potential CEOLs granted, the RFI sets forth “Stages for the Conclusion of Special Lithium Operation Contracts,” which include assessing whether an indigenous consultation process is required, the issuance of a supreme decree that sets forth the requirements of the relevant CEOL, determination of the CEOL contractor, and execution of the CEOL following a favorable report from the Chilean Copper Commission.

Key dates related to the RFI are as follows:

  • The consultation period ends on May 17, 2024.
  • Responses to queries may be made up to ten business days from the date indicated above.
  • Submission of expressions of interest may be made until June 17, 2024.
  • Results of the RFI process will be published by July 9, 2024. Such publication of results will only refer to the number of interested parties and areas of interest and not to companies that participate in the RFI stage.

Further information regarding the RFI process is available on the Chilean government website. Please contact the authors with any questions.