LEADERSHIP

SQM pledges water and brine extraction reduction

Leading Chilean lithium producer has said it plans to "deepen its commitment to the environment and sustainability" of its operation in the Salar de Atamaca in northern Chile.

SQM's operation in the Salar de Atacama, Chile

SQM's operation in the Salar de Atacama, Chile

The plan includes water use reduction at its production centre, where there is increasing concern about continental water availability in one of the most arid places on Earth, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

"We have worked for months in the development of this plan which is primarily based on the sustainable development goals of the United Nations," said CEO Ricardo Ramos.

The company aims to reduce its water usage in all operations by 40% by 2030 and by 65% in 2040 and at its lithium brine evaporation operation in the Salar de Atacama by 30% immediately compared to 2019 levels, and 50% by 2030.

To do so SQM plans to improve its production processes and making investments totalling US$105 million in two phases to use continental water more efficiently, such as the use of seawater in the production of nitrates and iodine.

In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, the company pledged to produce carbon neutral products by 2040, with its lithium, potassium chloride and iodine products achieving this by 2030 following investment of $100 million.

SQM has invested in technology in recent years to improve yields from its brine extraction process to allow it to expand production and reduce its brine extraction requirement.

The company has voluntarily decided to reduce its brine extraction by 20% from November as it aims to reduce this 50% by 2030. Its brine extraction has become a point of conflict with lithium regulator Corfo. The company was adjudged to have extracted more brine than permitted by the environmental regulator in 2016 and subsequently saw its $25 million compliance plan rejected by a court, forcing it to formulate a new one.

SQM produces 75,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) per year. It is advancing projects to expand its lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate plants as it aims to reach a production level of 200,000tpy LCE.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Journal Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Journal Intelligence team.

editions

Mining Journal Intelligence Investor Sentiment Report 2024

Survey revealing the plans, priorities, and preferences of 120+ mining investors and their expectations for the sector in 2024.

editions

Mining Journal Intelligence Mining Equities Report 2023

Access an exclusive, inside look on the quarterly mining IPOs and secondary raisings data and mining equities performance tables with an annual Stock Exchange Comparisons supplement.

editions

Mining Journal Intelligence World Risk Report 2023 (feat. MineHutte ratings)

A detailed analysis of mining investment risks across 121 jurisdictions globally, built on 11 ‘hard risk’ metrics and an industrywide survey.

editions

Mining Journal Intelligence Global Leadership Report 2023: Social licence

Gain insights into social licence trends and best practices from interviews with 20+ top mining company executives and an industrywide survey.