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Albemarle inaugurates third lithium-conversion site in Chile

By Mary Page Bailey |

Albemarle Corporation (Charlotte, N.C.) inaugurated its third chemical conversion plant, La Negra III/IV, in Antofagasta as one of the most modern chemical conversion plants in Latin America. With new technology, the plant is expected to double lithium production and further reduce the company’s low-freshwater consumption in this process, marking a clear commitment to sustainable production.

Albemarle President and CEO Kent Masters stated, “This new plant marks a milestone in Albemarle’s commitment to lead our industry, responding to increasing global demand for lithium through innovation and dedication to sustainability. Lithium is key to an energy transition that must be implemented with meticulous attention to dialogue, sustainability, and social value. This inauguration also demonstrates the importance of Chile for Albemarle, and our commitment to continue collaborating with the country in this industry.”

According to Ignacio Mehech, Vice President of External Affairs and Country Manager of Albemarle Chile, “With this expansion Albemarle is supporting the global energy transition and, at the same time, we are working together with the local communities to support the economy, the people and the environment of the areas in which we operate. Eighty-three percent of our workers are from the Antofagasta Region, 14% are women, and almost 40% of those working at the Salar plant are of indigenous origin. We take our commitments seriously and we back them up with real actions.”

The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Mining, Marcela Hernando, as well as various government authorities, representatives of indigenous communities, academics, diplomats, international delegations, and people from the mining industry, who highlighted the contribution of this new plant to the development of the lithium industry in Chile.

Located 27 kilometers from the city of Antofagasta, Albemarle’s La Negra III/IV plant represents an investment of more than $500 million and has R&D laboratories and facilities for the complex chemical processes that are intended to remove impurities and transform the lithium concentrate from the Salar de Atacama into high value-added products. The new plant includes a US$ 100 million thermal evaporator that is designed to considerably reduce the amount of fresh water per metric ton used during the process at La Negra. It recovers the water from what is commonly called the “mother liquor” and then recycles it in the production process of technical grade and battery grade lithium carbonate. The technology is intended to reduce water consumption by up to 30% per metric ton.

The Minister of Mining, Marcela Hernando stated, “This is an important milestone for the region and for the country, as it shows that sustainable investment continues to advance in Chile and that companies such as Albemarle are working hand in hand with governmental objectives towards the development of a lithium industry that generates value in the territory and installed capacities through the contract that the mining company has with Corfo.”

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