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SQM looking to expand into 4th country amid rising lithium prices

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA, or SQM, is looking to expand into a fourth country, after establishing projects in Chile, Argentina and Australia, in a bid to ride lithium's price surge as demand for batteries continues to grow, Bloomberg News reported Dec. 5, citing anonymous company officials.

The miner previously assessed a project in China, but it was dismissed for being too complicated, according to the officials, who said SQM needs to diversify geographically despite an ongoing conflict over its Salar de Atacama lithium property in Chile.

Chile's state-backed development agency, Corfo, claims SQM attempted to block a competitive bidding process for the lease slated to take place by 2030, and the dispute is set to return to arbitration after talks failed, with a decision on the arbitration expected by year-end.

SQM, which recently warned that the dispute may stretch through the end of 2018, still expects to reach a production quota for its Atacama operation in 2022.

The company's third-quarter net income more than doubled year over year to US$112.9 million, from US$55.8 million.