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ECONOMY | 30-05-2023 21:54

Chile set to lose ground in global lithium rankings to Argentina

Chile, the second-largest supplier of lithium, expects to lose more market share to Australia and Argentina over the next decade.

Chile, the second-largest supplier of lithium, expects to lose more market share to Australia and Argentina over the next decade, relegating it to third place in the global production rankings.

State-run Cochilco forecasts Chile's output of the key ingredient in electric car batteries will double by 2035 to 336,000 metric tonnes, while Argentina will increase to 415,000 tonnes, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Much of the additional capacity cited in the report will be built later this year at operations run by SQM and Albemarle Corp, raising concerns about the pace of growth in brine projects.

Cochilco's figures only cover expansions by SQM and Albemarle, as well as possible production by Codelco-led companies in the Maricunga salt flat. Future public-private projects under the government's new model for the industry could swell the figures.

In the short term, Cochilco sees the lithium market remaining relatively tight over the next year before moving into surplus as new supply comes on stream after prices have risen over the past two years. However, the first half of the 2030s will be characterised by a growing deficit, it predicted.

While Chile's projections for the coming years are broadly in line with other forecasters, its longer-term outlook is less bullish than those of BMI and S&P Global, which project significant deficits by 2030.

Industry demand for electric vehicles is forecast to grow steadily at an average of 16 percent per year until 2035 as the world moves away from fossil fuels, according to Cochilco's presentation.

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by James Attwood, Bloomberg

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