Rosatom Looks to Chilean Mine for Lithium Supply

A subsidiary of Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom could buy a controlling stake in a lithium project in Chile’s Atacama salt flat from Canada-listed Wealth Minerals Ltd, the Canadian company said on Tuesday, according to Reuters

Under a deal struck with Wealth, the Russian nuclear firm has the option to purchase up to a 51% stake in Wealth’s Atacama project in northern Chile, the statement said.

Chile’s Atacama salt flat, home to leading lithium producers SQM and Albemarle, accounts for around one-third the world’s supply of lithium, a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles, tablets and cell phones.

Rosatom’s interest in Chile’s lithium industry comes as electric automakers and governments scour the world for the metals needed to power the quickly expanding industry.

Chile, the world’s second biggest producer of lithium, has been slow to ramp up production further amid concerns that mining the white metal, which is found in brine pools beneath the desert floor, could sap scarce water supplies in the world’s driest desert. 

Rosatom, the world’s biggest nuclear company by foreign orders, previously offered Chile’s government technology it said could sustainably boost lithium output without taxing water resources, lobbyist transparency filings showed in December.

“Partnering with U1G (Rosatom subsidiary Uranium One) will help Wealth accelerate the development of lithium projects by using modern technology and moving away from outdated solar evaporation to a more efficient and environmentally friendly sorption technology,” Wealth Minerals President Tim McCutcheon said.