Chile’s state-owned minerals company Enami is set to commence construction on its inaugural lithium project as early as 2027, aligning with the government’s strategy to amplify its presence in the global battery metal sector, Reuters reported.

Enami is primarily involved in copper processing and is now venturing into lithium production, a critical component for batteries.

The company’s chief, Ivan Mlynarz, told the news agency that Enami is at the forefront of the government’s lithium initiatives, working in tandem with mining heavyweight Codelco.

Enami has initiated the process of finding a private collaborator to provide either financial or operational support for the lithium project.

Prospective partners have until 7 June 2024 to register their interest, with Enami aiming to finalise the selection by March 2025.

The project will be situated within the Salares Altoandinos in the Atacama region, encompassing three salt flats – Aguilar, La Isla, and Grande, which together span nearly 30,000ha.

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Enami will evaluate the available lithium reserves and the required investment to decide its ownership percentage in the project.

Mlynarz was quoted by the news agency as saying: “Right now we are developing the engineering basically so the project can start construction around 2027 or 2028.

“We have in mind partners that will see this through to the end … partners with the financial backing to guarantee that resources are available, and that have the experience to develop a project like this.”

He also noted that the finance ministry aims to have new lithium production in Chile by 2030.

Enami expects to eventually produce approximately 60,000 metric tonnes of lithium annually at Altoandinos.

Last month, Rio Tinto, Eramet and LG Energy submitted proposals to develop lithium extraction technology for a Chilean salt flat in the early stages of exploration.

Enami is asking for detailed plans from bidding companies to test the brine deposits within the salt flats.