Codelco, a Chilean state-owned copper producer, and lithium mining company SQM have agreed to establish roundtable discussions with representatives of indigenous communities.

These talks with the local communities will help establish a guarantee for sustainability of the ecosystem, within the framework of the country’s National Lithium Strategy.

They are taking place between Codelco and SQM for the lease of the Salar de Atacama lithium project.

Codelco and SQM claim that the roundtable will recognise international treaties signed and ratified by the Chilean Government. Among them is Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation.

It is related to indigenous peoples and tribal rights, the convention on biological diversity, the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and the US convention on human rights.

In the coming weeks, representatives from Codelco, SQM and the communities jointly plan to develop a common scheme for the roundtable and establish procedures and principles for early participation, with transparent access to information.

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This will ensure the participation of indigenous communities, with a focus on the protection and sustainability of the Salar de Atacama within the framework of eventual alliance between the two companies.

In May this year, Codelco formed two new subsidiaries, Salares de Chile and Minera Tarar, to focus on lithium business.

These companies were formed after the government decided to increase state control and public-private partnership under the National Lithium Strategy.

The government had appointed Codelco to manage the lithium industry during the transition.

While Salares de Chile will consolidate all the lithium-related activities of Codelco, Minera Tarar will focus on the operation of other subsidiaries such as Salar de Atacama and collaborate in public-private partnerships within the area.

In the same month, the state-owned copper producer began negotiations with SQM over its Salar de Atacama project.

The negotiations included conditions for extending SQM’s contract for the Salar de Atacama project, which will expire in 2030.

Operating since 1995, the Salar de Atacama project produced around 152,500 tonnes of lithium carbonate last year.