MEXICO CITY, May 18 (Reuters) - Chilean miner SQM,
a major producer of lithium, on Wednesday reported a near
twelve-fold rise in quarterly profit as it benefited from higher
prices of the metal used in electric-vehicle batteries.
Net profit rose to $796 million in the first quarter ended
March 31, while revenue nearly quadrupled to $2.02 billion.
The jump came on the back of a 59% surge in lithium sales
volume and near seven-fold rise in prices, thanks to the global
push towards electrification of vehicles.
SQM Chief Executive Ricardo Ramos had said in March the
company hoped to hit production capacity of 180,000 tonnes of
lithium in 2022 and the company said in its report that this
year's sales volume was expected to surpass 140,000 metric
The head of SQM's board announced in April the company
planned to invest $900 million through 2022 to increase lithium
carbonate and hydroxide production capacity.
Chile, the world's largest producer of lithium, has profited
from the rising global demand for electric vehicles. The country
controls the lithium sector through mining rights, which it has
awarded to some private companies.
President Gabriel Boric, who took office in March, has
previously said Chile could create a national mining company,
although officials from the Mining Ministry have recently shown
themselves to be less optimistic of the prospect.
The state already controls top copper producer Codelco.
SQM and competitor Albemarle Corp. have major
projects in Chile's Atacam salt flats, which the companies use
to extract lithium from below the surface via brine pools.
(Reporting by Carolina Pulice; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing
by Jacqueline Wong, Uttaresh.V and Aditya Soni)