SMM11, 26 Feb: Chilean mining company SQM said Thursday that sales of ultra-light battery metals fell 27 per cent in the third quarter due to delays in lithium production from the Salar de Atacama project.
"these two factors prompted market prices to remain high in the third quarter," Chief Executive Patricio de Solminihac said after the company reported a decline in third-quarter profits. "prices are expected to remain at these levels for the rest of the year."
So far this year, lithium prices have averaged $16, $5, 000 a tonne, up from $13500 a tonne in 2017, according to the company's earnings report.
SQM said in October that it was facing delays in upgrading its lithium carbonate plant, which processes lithium mines from Salar de Atacama. The project, which was first announced in 2017, aims to increase lithium production capacity to 70000 tons.
"We are trying to solve these problems as soon as possible," Solminihac said. "the acceleration delay could affect our lithium and derivatives sales in the fourth quarter, postponing some production until the first quarter of 2019."
Revenue from lithium and derivatives fell 8.9% in the third quarter from the third quarter of 2017 due to delays in production, the company said.
Total lithium sales this year should be about 45000 tons, Solminihac said. Earlier this year, the company set sales of its lithium line of business at 55000 tons in 2018.
SQM reported revenue of $83.5 million for the quarter, down 26 per cent from $112.9 million in 2017.
SQM said it would overtake rival Albemarle Corp, to become the world's largest lithium producer by 2022.
With global demand for lithium soaring, SQM and Albemarle are preparing to increase production at Salar de Atacama, one of the world's richest lithium mines.
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