Steve Cochrane, President & CEO,
“The government has spoken about creating a national lithium company, with the goal of partnering up with private sector companies to jointly advance lithium projects in Chile. This would be a far better, more transparent pathway to co-develop Chile’s lithium assets rather than the current regulatory environment.”
Can you provide a brief overview of Lithium Chile’s portfolio of projects in Chile?
We currently have 11 projects in Chile, covering approximately 80,000 hectares. Our Laguna Blanca asset is JV’d with Monumental Minerals in Vancouver, who have the option to acquire 75% of the project.
We have a couple of major projects we are keeping to ourselves including Coipasa, the second largest salar in the world. Approximately 80% of Coipasa is on the Bolivian side and 20% on the Chilean side, and we control approximately 67% of the property on the Chilean side.
What progress has the company made with its Argentinian assets and what are your plans for 2022?
The Argentinian environment for lithium mining development is more favorable and less regulated than in Chile due to the provinces controlling their resources and wanting to develop revenue streams for the benefit of their citizens. The Salta province of northwest Argentina, where our Arizaro project is located, has been most proactive in promoting the development of their lithium assets.
We were introduced to the Galli family who have extensive experience in all aspects of lithium exploration and have a great asset in the heart of Salar de Arizaro, the fourth biggest salar in the world. We entered into a JV with SMG S.R.L. in April 2021, where we committed to a drilling campaign. Previously, an exploration well had been drilled which identified a lower aquifer showing a deposit with grades between 500 to 600 mg/l of lithium. We agreed on drilling a pump test well into that zone to evaluate the commerciality, and consequently drilled a 465 m production well and found a classic brine aquifer between approximately 320 - 452 m. Subsequent pump testing of that lower zone produced flow rates up to 50 liters/sec, some of the highest flow rates seen in Salta. Assay results from brines collected during that test showed lithium grades ranging from 250 mg/l to as high as 555 mg/l
In January 2022, we announced an initial 1.4 million t of lithium carbonate equivalent resource from our initial pump test well on Arizaro. For the rest of 2022, we have a seven well program designed to drill four exploration holes and three production wells to expand the extent and the size of the resource.
Can you give details of the recent C$34 million investment by Chengxin Lithium Group?
We are pleased to have Chengxin as a partner, who recently increased their stake in Lithium Chile from 5% to 19.86% via a private placement of 29,380,000 common shares of Lithium Chile at $0.95 Cdn for gross proceeds of C$27,911,000. The private placement, combined with Lithium Chiles current cash balance, gives the company working capital of C$43 million with no debt.
As the second largest lithium carbonate processor in China, Chengxin not only brings financial clout to Lithium Chile but their production and processing expertise will prove invaluable in advancing our Argentinian play on Arizaro.
What are your thoughts on the current discourse in Chile surrounding lithium?
The global media has portrayed the new government and reforms as being negative for the mining industry, however, people on the ground in Chile and the Ministry are keen on advancing the lithium industry. The government has spoken about creating a national lithium company, with the goal of partnering up with private sector companies to jointly advance lithium projects in Chile. This would be a far better, more transparent pathway to co-develop Chile’s lithium assets rather than the current regulatory environment.
Salta in Argentina is a fantastic jurisdiction, but prices are higher due to a shortage of rigs and skilled mining professionals, and from a value/investment standpoint Chile provides great opportunities that have not yet seen explosive demand.
What do you think makes Lithium Chile an attractive proposition?
The optionality Lithium Chile has is second to none as not many juniors have the combination of capital, strategic backing, and multiple lithium projects in two of the top global jurisdictions. We now have an initial resource at Arizaro in Argentina with medium-term goals to advance this asset from 1.4 million tons to 6 million tons. Finally, we have a number of JV opportunities to advance some of our Chilean projects and two major projects in Chile we intend to advance ourselves.