Minimal environmental impacto
The lithium extraction process in the Salar de Atacama means that the impurities, which are returned to the Salar, are the same elements that were already in the basin.
Meanwhile, in Salar del Carmen, in Antofagasta, the process residues are magnesium and carbonate salts, which are stored at the same plant.
Due to the nature of the Salar, the salt crust and the great distance (25-30 km) from any population, mining activities do not produce dust or other impacts, such as noise.
The transport of the product to the plants or to the port in Antofagasta is carried out by way of a special road of more than 145 km (built by SQM), which connects to the main Chilean highway, so it does not pass through the cities of the Salar basin.
All wastes are transported to authorized sites outside the Salar.
There are no chemical or other products involved in the extraction, concentration or purification of lithium in the Salar.
SQM designed a concentration process using solar energy to concentrate the brine and precipitate the salts it contains, thus generating a concentrated LiCl brine without the need to add external materials.
The salts precipitated in the process are mainly used for the production of potash; others such as NaCl and MgCl2, although they are commercialized in low quantities, are stored in the Salar.
Therefore, there is no significant pollution in the Salar de Atacama due to the process.
In Antofagasta, the concentrated brine is processed; the final purification and the reactions with other raw materials are carried out to produce Li2CO3 and LiOH. The wastes from this process are salts and brines that mainly contain carbonate, calcium, magnesium and small amounts of lithium that are stored in the plant after evaporation of the brine.