The economy of electric vehicles: Saudi Arabia focuses on Chile for lithium

The economy of electric vehicles: Saudi Arabia focuses on Chile for lithium


South American nation is the world’s second largest producer after Australia

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is working on his ambitious Vision 2030 for economic diversification

  • The goal is to completely transform the oil-based economy

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SANTIAGO (Reuters/Web Desk) – Saudi Arabia's mining minister plans to meet with his Chilean counterpart in Santiago at the end of July to discuss potential investments in lithium, a Chilean government source said on Friday.

Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef told Reuters in a recent interview that the Middle Eastern country is interested in obtaining lithium overseas as it aims to enter the electric vehicle (EV) sector.

The move is part of the Vision 2030 – a brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who wants to an economic transformation by ending reliance on oil through economic diversification. Green energy and artificial intelligence are two of the main features in this connection.

Riyadh through Public Investment Fund (PIF) is pouring billions of dollars in different sectors – from energy and manufacturing to tourism and entertainment to achieve the goal, which was considered unthinkable just a few years back.

Chile is the world's second-biggest producer of lithium, a material key to making the batteries that power EVs. The global shift towards EVs has created a rush by carmakers and global powers for the ultralight metal.

Chilean newspaper Diario Financiero first reported plans for the Saudi visit to Chile, saying Alkhorayef was expected to meet with mining minister Aurora Williams. It also said Saudi Arabia was interested in meeting with Codelco and Enami, the state-run mining companies tasked with bringing the Chilean government into the lithium industry.

Both companies are seeking private sector partners to launch new lithium projects – Codelco in the Maricunga salt flat, and Enami in brine deposits known as Altoandinos.

The Mining Ministry and Codelco did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Enami said it has not received any meeting requests from Saudi officials or companies.

Chile's mining ministry in April said it had been approached by the Saudi embassy in Santiago about hosting a delegation this year to discuss potential investments in the sector.

Saudi ambassador in Chile Khalid Alsaloom in a social media post last week said he met with Williams to discuss topics of mutual interest.