Indigenous Protests Impact Lithium Mining Operations in Chile


  • Indigenous groups had blocked roads leading to mining operations in the south of the Atacama salt flat, disrupting supplies and operations of domestic producer SQM and U.S. firm Albemarle (NYSE:).
  • Protests ensued due to an agreement between SQM and state-run firm Codelco, without the involvement of local communities, despite promises of discussions regarding lithium mining in the Atacama.
  • The Atacama Indigenous Council announced that the blockade would end, due to a promise from the mining ministry that President Boric would visit the region.
  • This protest highlights the challenges faced by Chile, the second major lithium producer, in exerting more governmental control over the metal essential for the production of electric vehicle batteries.

Details on the Indigenous groups’ Protests

The public roads to the mining expeditions in the southern part of Atacama’s salt plane, used by Chilean producer SQM and American company Albemarle , were obstructed for several days by indigenous communities. The blockade hindered the movement of workers, supplies, and lithium.

Reason for Demonstrations

Recent demonstrations were due to an agreement finalized last month involving SQM and the government-owned firm, Codelco. But according to indigenous leaders, local societies were overlooked despite the government’s recent pledge for an open dialogue on the lithium mining in the Atacama.

The Native Council’s Statement

The indigenous council of Atacama announced via social media platform X that the protests would end in the coming hours. Following the mining ministry’s assurance of President Boric’s upcoming visit, the roadblocks would be cleared. However, there remains uncertainty over the scheduled timing of his visit.

Impact on Chile’s Plan

The demonstrations highlight significant obstacles faced by Chile, the world’s second key lithium supplier, in exerting increased government control over the metal that is vital for electric vehicle battery manufacturing.

The Council’s Statement

The council emphasized that the president needs to firsthand understand Atacama’s salt flat scenario before implementing policies related to it.

Companies’ Responses

Albemarle had previously stated that its operations were unaffected amidst the protests, while SQM has not yet publicly responded to a request for comment.

The developments in the lithium mining sector of Chile, a significant lithium producer, may have considerable influence on the global electric vehicle manufacturing market, impacting relevant trading strategies and assets.

PIP Penguin