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SQM nabs approval for US$400M plant expansion at Salar de Atacama

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA, or SQM, secured environmental approval for its planned US$400 million expansion of its Salar del Carmen lithium carbonate production plant at its operations in Chile's Atacama desert, Reuters reported March 14.

The expansion will result in a planned lithium production capacity increase to 180,000 tonnes per year. Earlier this week, CEO Ricardo Ramos said the lithium producer expects to triple its lithium sales to 150,000 tonnes per year by 2025.

According to the report, water has become a key sticking point to the expansion plans of both SQM and Charlotte, N.C.-based rival Albemarle Corp., with both running lithium extraction operations in the Atacama desert.

In November 2018, Chilean regulators blocked Albemarle's plans to build new infrastructure that will increase lithium output from its Salar de Atacama operations in Chile.