BBB has confirmed that Tesla is considering proposals to invest in lithium production in Chile— and that the carmaker could also support the launch of a battery cathodes production facility in the country.
The CEO of Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo), Eduardo Bitran (pictured), met Tesla bosses in the US recently to discuss a potential initial investment in Chilean lithium producer Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), the agency told BBB this week.
A Corfu spokesperson said Bitran held talks at Tesla’s headquarters in California to lay the groundwork for “a conversation between Tesla and SQM”— as the US carmaker looks to shore up supply chains for battery raw materials.
The spokesperson told BBB it was now up to the companies themselves to decide on a possible partnership. But Bitran believes there is potential for cooperation that could also see Tesla supporting the establishment of battery cathode manufacturing in Chile.
Tesla and SQM could not be contacted for comment.
SQM was founded in 1968 to reorganise the Chilean nitrate industry. The company was state-owned until privatisation in 1988. Today, SQM has several business lines and currently produces lithium carbonate at its Salar del Carmen facilities near Antofagasta.
SQM recently reached an agreement with Corfo over disputed lithium mining royalties in the Salar de Atacama region, after agreeing to pay $17.5 million along with interest to the agency.
Kurt Kelty, the former senior director of Tesla Motors’ cell supply chain and business development, said last year that the company did not rule out becoming a miner of nickel— the largest component of the NMC cathode used in Tesla cells— as it consolidates its position into becoming the world’s biggest user and manufacturer of lithium-ion cells.