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Codelco Targets 2030 Start of Maricunga Lithium Project

Chile’s Codelco has begun evaluating potential partners for a lithium project in one of the country’s most important salt flats, Maricunga, with the aim of starting production in 2030.

The state-owned copper miner, which hired Rothschild & Co as financial adviser in April to help it select a partner, told local newspaper La Tercera that it has already received between 30 and 40 expressions of interest.

Construction on the project, dubbed “Paloma” (Dove), is expected to begin in early 2027, with first production targeted for 2030, and Codelco’s partner is expected to be announced in early 2025.

In an initial phase, which would require an investment of $1.2 billion, Paloma would produce 20,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) per year using the traditional evaporation pond method.

The subsequent phase will focus on achieving 30,000 tons of LCE per year through direct lithium extraction (DLE), a technology that has yet to be proven at a commercial scale. The initial capital expenditure for this phase is estimated at $1.1 billion, according to a four-page “investment highlights” document seen by Reuters.

Codelco is aggressively testing the use of DLE. Chairman Máximo Pacheco said Thursday that its newly announced partnership with SQM (NYSE: SQM) for lithium

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