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21 May 2018
Together with Argentina and Bolivia, Chile holds 56% of the world's lithium reserves, which provides significant extraction and production advantages. The Antofagasta and Atacama regions are home to Chile's most important lithium deposits. The Salar of Atacama salt flat in Antofagasta is:
The Salar of Maricunga salt flat in Atacama is:
Until 1979, the Mining Code 1932 defined the legal regime for lithium. During that period, lithium was treated like any other mineral and could be privately owned without special restrictions. Article 3 of the Mining Code expressly mentioned lithium as a mineral that could be exploited under a concession and it was exempt from Article 4 of the code, which listed the mineral deposits reserved for state ownership.
This situation changed with the enactment of the following laws.
Decree-Law 2,886 was published in the Official Gazette on November 14 1979. Under this law, lithium deposits are state property unless they constitute a concession granted prior to the law's enactment or were being processed at that time and meet the following conditions:
Further, under Decree-Law 2,886, lithium concentrates, derivatives and compounds cannot be subject to any legal dealings, unless carried out by the Nuclear Energy Commission or with its prior authorisation and in accordance with its conditions.
Law 18,097, the so-called 'Organic Constitutional Law on Mining Concessions', was published in the Official Gazette on January 21 1982 and introduced the following changes to the previous regime:
The Mining Code 1983 – contained in Law 18,248 and published in the Official Gazette on October 14 1983 – includes lithium as a non-eligible substance. Article 9 of the code provides that the state may require producers to separate, dispose of or deliver to the state significant quantities of non-eligible substances from mining products that are susceptible to being reduced or separated from a technical and economic point of view. The law provides that where the state has not issued a request to the producer, it will be presumed that the non-eligible substances contained in the respective mining products were not of a significant quantity. Before delivery, the state must:
Supreme Decree 64
The Ministry of Mining's Supreme Decree 64 was published in the Official Gazette on March 1 2018. It establishes special operation contract requirements and conditions for the exploration, exploitation and processing of lithium deposits in the Salar of Maricunga salt flats and surrounding areas located in the Atacama region to be signed by the state with Salar de Maricunga SpA – a company controlled by the state-owned copper mining company CODELCO – in exchange for a fee and subject to a specific payment, excepting the concessions created in accordance with the Mining Code 1932.
For further information on this topic please contact Santiago Montt Vicuña at Montt y Cia SA by telephone (+56 22 233 8266) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Montt y Cia SA website can be accessed at www.monttgroup.com.
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