Chilean state miner Enami reports ’encouraging’ Altoandinos lithium results

SANTIAGO, June 4 (Reuters) – Chilean state-owned miner Enami on Tuesday said an early exploration campaign for its Salares Altoandinos lithium project, located in the South American nation’s northern salt flats, has shown promising results.

Enami is looking for a partner with which to develop the project after the government tapped it to help pursue a strategy of expanding state control in the production of lithium, a white metal used in electric-vehicle batteries.

According to preliminary data, Enami said the Aguilar salt flat, more than 1,000 km (620 miles) north of the capital Santiago, could have an average lithium concentration of 740 milligrams per liter, with as much as 984 mg/l in some areas.

“The preliminary results are encouraging,” Enami’s executive vice president, Ivan Mlynarz, said in a statement. He said technical advances had allowed for important developments that represented “important competitive advantages for investors interested in being part of the initiative.”

With an initial investment of $10.5 million, Enami has set up its basic exploration campaign for the Aguilar, La Isla and Grande salt flats from a camp in the Atacama mountains.

Enami has also begun testing direct lithium extraction, a technique that uses less water and has a higher recovery rate from brine, to extract saleable forms of lithium.

The initial campaign is set to establish what lithium resources and reserves are available at these deposits. The company expects to start building the production facilities by 2030.

Chile is the world’s second-biggest lithium producer after Australia. Together with South American neighbors Argentina and Bolivia – the so-called lithium triangle – they are estimated to hold more than half the world’s resources. (Reporting by Fabian Andres Cambero in Santiago Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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