SANTIAGO, May 22 (Reuters) - Chile's government, which has
pledged to establish a state lithium firm to develop the
ultra-light battery metal, hopes to establish a model for the
company by the end of the year, mining minister Marcela Hernando
told local paper La Tercera on Sunday.
The South American country is the world's second largest
producer of lithium, a key component for electric car batteries,
with its domestic industry currently dominated by two private
firms Albemarle Corp and SQM.
However, the government of new leftist President Gabriel
Boric, like administrations in Mexico and Argentina, is keen to
get more closely involved in the booming market for lithium,
which has seen prices soar over the last year.
Hernando said a specialized group was being formed to define
the best design to operate the company.
"We hope to have the proposal for how this company will be
as an institution and the business model in which it will
operate before the end of the year," she said.
The minister reiterated that the government was open to the
participation of private capital in the firm, although with the
State as the main shareholder.
President Boric, who came into office in March, said during
the election campaign that Chile should not commit the "historic
mistake" of privatizing its resources again and reiterated his
interest in creating the company for the development of lithium.
Hernando added that lithium would not be included in the
plans to apply a mining royalty, as part of an ambitious tax
agenda promoted by the government.
"The evaluations we have made is that it is very complex,
since lithium is an industry that is not very mature," she said.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Bill