With the global “lithium wars’ heating up, it’s not surprising that China’s leading electric vehicle (EV) makers are scrambling to secure their share of the booming market and establish their own sustainable stockpile of the precious mineral.
One such firm is BYD which is set to send a team of mining engineers to begin the processing of lithium in Chile. According to Stella Li, BYD’s executive vice-president, the said engineers will be in the country to choose a mining site and conduct an overall feasibility study. Li added that her company is willing to work with the relevant agencies of the Chilean government and is also open to the possibility of a technology transfer between nations.
This is a strategic move on the part of the Chinese firm which is currently considered the world’s second largest battery producer, and part of its plan for the construction of a lithium cathode factory worth $290 million in northern Chile.
BYD hopes to start producing lithium iron phosphate for cathodes by the end of 2025.
Earlier this year, in recognition of the plans for the said facility, the Chilean government granted BYD access to preferential prices for locally produced lithium carbonate. This gives BYD strategic access to the country’s extensive lithium reserves. Prior to this, the bulk of BYD’s lithium processing was done in China.
Having been given such access, BYD can secure preferential prices for at least 11,244 metric tons of battery-grade lithium carbonate a year from the country’s second-largest lithium producer Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM) until 2030.
BYD is also in the process of completing final contracts in Chile, as the latter’s government is set to adopt a new lithium extraction model wherein the state becomes a key stakeholder in future initiatives.