September 15, 2017 / 7:27 PM / a year ago

Albemarle asks Chile to raise lithium production limit

SANTIAGO, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Albemarle Corp has asked Chile to increase the U.S. miner’s lithium production limit in the country, it said on Friday, amid high global prices for the mineral used in batteries as demand for electric vehicles surges.

The company asked state development agency CORFO to raise its lithium production quota to 125,000 tonnes annually from the current 80,000-tonne-per-year limit.

It said new technology would allow it to obtain more of the mineral without needing to extract more brine out of the Atacama salt flat.

“With the understanding that this new technology is commercially viable, Albemarle will build a new lithium carbonate production plant at the beginning of the next decade,” the company said in a statement.

The expansion plan would be rolled out once current projects are completed and operating at full capacity, the company added.

If the plan is approved, Albemarle’s investment in Chile would reach $1 billion over the next five years.

The Atacama salt flat is part of the so-called “lithium triangle” in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, which contains a large portion of the world’s lithium reserves. (Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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