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SQM plans to more than double its Lithium mining capacity

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(Kitco News) - SQM (Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile) who are the biggest lithium producer after Albemarle, are set to be moving ahead with plans to more than double capacity in a bet that accelerating electric-vehicle demand will tighten an oversupplied market for the battery metal.

The company say it expects lithium sales of 60 000 metric tons this year to increase by around 30% next year, it said in an earnings statement. In numbers, SQM will expand to 120 000 t from 70 000 t by the end of 2021, while its hydroxide capacity will increase to 21 500 t. Its board approved taking carbonate to 180 000 t and hydroxide to 30 000 t by 2023. Right now, it’s producing at a rate of 75 000 t/y.

Ricardo Ramos the firms CEO said "This quarter, we sold significantly higher sales volumes of lithium, over 40% more than the second quarter this year. However, iodine sales volumes were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been impacting, among others, the X-ray contrast media market, and ultimately iodine demand. We are hopeful we could see demand recovery in 2021, returning to levels seen in 2019. In addition, we plan to become completely carbon neutral in all of our products by 2040,"

Shares are up 65% on the year as the sector continues to see strong growth. The all-time high is 67.75 which was hit back in 2011 and now the price is struggling at the consolidation low from that period near $46 per share. 

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