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SQM Collaborates with Talga to Boost Lithium Supply in Europe

Partnerships Aim to Boost European Lithium Supply

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

SQM, the world’s second-largest lithium producer, and Talga Group, an innovative materials company, have formed a strategic collaboration, an action that might significantly alter the European lithium market. With the goal of creating a reliable lithium supply center in Europe, this partnership is concentrated on the advancement of the Aero lithium project, which is situated in northern Sweden.

Thanks to their commitment to an earn-in agreement, SQM is able to obtain up to a 70% stake in the Aero project. This is conditioned on them funding exploration costs for the following seven years to the tune of up to $19 million. The project’s potential is shown by this investment, which also demonstrates SQM’s dedication to growing its global footprint in lithium resources.

Mark Thompson, Managing Director of Talga, expressed optimism about the partnership’s potential impact. He highlighted that the Aero project stands out as one of the few large-scale lithium hard rock opportunities in Europe, poised to significantly benefit the region’s burgeoning battery and electric vehicle industry.

The agreement stipulates that once the earn-in period concludes, both parties will proportionally share further expenditures based on their stakes. Failure to comply would result in the dilution of their ownership shares. This clause ensures ongoing commitment and collaboration between SQM and Talga, safeguarding the project’s advancement.

In addition to exploration funding, Talga will maintain all rights and obligations concerning graphite minerals at the Aero site and will earn a management fee for each stage of the deal. A further “success fee” is on the table if both parties agree to commence mining operations, marking a milestone in the project’s commercial viability.

Mark Fones, CEO of SQM’s International Lithium division, remarked that the partnership with Talga aligns with SQM’s strategic goals. He noted that expanding into new and promising territories like Sweden enhances SQM’s global presence and competitive edge in the lithium market. Fones praised Talga’s regional expertise, which complements SQM’s technological and financial resources, making this partnership particularly synergistic.

This new venture is part of SQM’s broader strategy to diversify its operations and reduce its reliance on its traditional Chilean bases. Over the past three years, SQM has actively pursued opportunities beyond its home turf, initially expanding to Australia. This included an earn-in agreement with Tambourah Metals covering the Julimar North project in Western Australia and the acquisition of a 30% interest in Pirra Lithium with an option to increase this stake.

Despite a setback in attempting to take over Azure Minerals on its own, SQM successfully entered a partnership with Australia’s wealthiest individual, Gina Rinehart, through her company, Hancock Prospecting. This collaboration granted SQM a stake in the Andover project alongside access to Hancock’s rail infrastructure and local mining expertise, further cementing its position in the Australian market.

Additionally, SQM holds a joint venture with Wesfarmers in the Mt. Holland lithium mine in Western Australia, which began operations recently. This mine is set to produce significant quantities of lithium hydroxide, potentially powering nearly one million new electric vehicles annually for the next fifty years.

Back in Chile, SQM is also ramping up its lithium carbonate production capacity, expecting to produce 210,000 tonnes this year and aiming for 240,000 tonnes by 2025. Plans are on track to reach a total of 305,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent by then. A recent partnership agreement with copper giant Codelco has also solidified SQM’s operational rights in the Atacama salt flats through 2060, ensuring long-term resource stability. This strategic expansion into Sweden with Talga represents a big step for SQM as it continues to boost its global lithium supply capabilities, meeting the growing demand from the electric vehicle and renewable energy sectors.

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