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SQM secures Chilean regulator approval for Salar de Atacama compliance plan

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA, or SQM, secured approval from Chile's environmental regulator for a US$25 million compliance plan that will cut the lithium miner's extraction of brine and fresh water at its Salar de Atacama operation, Reuters reported Jan. 7.

The environmental regulator filed charges against the company in late 2016 related to several violations. The authority alleged that, since 2013, the company had extracted more brine at Salar de Atacama than legally allowed.

Under the 18-month remediation plan, SQM's extraction rates will be monitored by a new online system, and it will reduce its brine extraction levels to make up for previous violations.

SQM is working to expand its Salar de Atacama operations as it aims to surpass Albemarle Corp. as the world's top lithium producer.

The company outlined plans in May 2018 to increase annual capacity at its operations in Chile to 70,000 tonnes from 48,000 tonnes by year-end, with a second-stage expansion targeting a further increase to 120,000 tonnes and a wider goal of increasing to 180,000 tonnes per year by 2021.