Middle East

Chileans protest against lithium contract sales

The Chileans have revived the debate over nationalization of resources as the new left-wing president is preparing to take over on the streets to protest the government’s plans to sell the lithium extraction contract. Opponents called for protests under the banner “To regain our resources.”
Opposition lawmakers launched a proceeding dismissed on Friday due to lack of process time, and earlier this week stopped the bidding process for a 20-year contract to extract 400,000 tons of lithium from the world’s second-largest metal producer. It has been used especially for batteries in electric vehicles.
The bidding process, which began last October, ends this month just two months before center-right President Sebastian Pinella is replaced by left-wing Gabriel Bolic.
At Santiago on Friday night, the marches said, “Pinera, I understand that Lithium isn’t for sale.” Bolic, the youngest leader in Chile’s history, was elected last month promising to establish a “social welfare” state, saying Chile cannot repeat “historical mistakes in the privatization of resources” such as lithium. rice field.
Boric proposed the establishment of a “state-owned lithium company” similar to the National Copper Corporation (Codelco), the world’s largest copper company founded in the 1970s by a nationalized mining company. Copper mining was nationalized by the government of former Marxist President Salvador Allende and banished by dictator August Pinochet.
“There are two options, either leaving lithium in the ground or using it for the benefit of all Chileans,” President Pinella told reporters Friday.
“After confirming that lithium production in Chile is stagnant and that countries such as Argentina and Bolivia are threatening to overtake Chile, we decided to start a strategic plan to use lithium.” He added.
However, Raul Soto, a member of the center-left party for democracy who submitted court documents to stop the bidding process on Tuesday, said the Pinella administration “is endangering the country’s general interests.” “.
The government claims that a sale is needed to return Chile to the world’s largest lithium-producing country by 2016. Currently, it is second only to Australia. Five companies, including Chilean mining giant SQM and American Albemarle, have submitted tens of millions of dollars worth of bids to their licenses.
The government states that the deal covers less than 4% of Chile’s known lithium reserves, accounting for 57% of the world’s total, and claims that successful bidders must comply with strict environmental regulations. increase.

http://www.gulf-times.com/story/707642/Chileans-protest-lithium-contract-sale Chileans protest against lithium contract sales

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