Chile has a calming message for car makers worried about lithium supplies

Chile has a calming message for car makers worried about lithium supplies
Mining News Pro - The nation sitting on half the world’s lithium reserves has a calming message for electric car makers: tougher environmental oversight won’t threaten future production of the metal used to make batteries.

Chile’s environmental regulator is working with other agencies to devise a plan for strengthening supervision of mining companies that pump out hundreds of liters a second of lithium-laced brine from beneath the Atacama salt flat. Under pressure from investors and customers, miners are already investing millions to reduce their footprint and they too say that shouldn’t constrain output.

While the main objective is to mitigate the impact on the fragile ecosystem and local communities, the new integrated approach to oversight shouldn’t jeopardize production in an era in which sustainability is a starting point, said Cristobal de La Maza, who heads the agency known as SMA. The Chilean expansion plans of Albemarle Corp. and local rival SQM are crucial for the industry to meet demand that’s expected to triple in the coming years, with lithium a key ingredient in batteries that power vehicles and phones.

“We don’t think this is something that goes against economic interests, although our role is clearly environmental,” de La Maza said by telephone Thursday. “In environmental matters, what was valid 30 years, today isn’t acceptable.”

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