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Chile sets sights on new copper markets, expansion of lithium industry

Chile plans to enter new copper markets and expand its lithium industry to shield its economy from an ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, Reuters reported Oct. 8, citing Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica.

The South American country is also considering opening its copper and lithium reserves to foreign investment to take advantage of the demand for both metals from the electric vehicle industry.

Chile's lithium reserves total approximately 7.5 million tonnes.

"Chile is to electric vehicles what Saudi Arabia is to crude oil," Prokurica said. "We are trying to further diversify our economy through the number and quality of trade agreements we have."

As part of the efforts to expand into new markets, Chile is reviewing its trade deal with India that Prokurica said was "quite basic but could include other products."

The country, which produces nearly a quarter of the global copper output, is projecting an average copper price of US$3 per pound this year, down from an estimate of US$3.06/lb in April.

"Were it not for the trade war between the U.S. and China, we would have a much higher copper price," Prokurica said.