The Chilean Government’s Central Environmental Committee has voted to approve the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment


Minera Salar Blanco has secured environmental approval for the Maricunga Lithium Project. (Credit: Dnn87)

Bearing Lithium announced its joint venture company, Minera Salar Blanco (MSB), has received environmental approval for the Maricunga project in the Atacama Region of northern Chile. Bearing holds an 18% interest in MSB, along with Lithium Power International (LPI-ASX) at 51% and a private Chilean company at 31%.

The Chilean Government’s Central Environmental Committee has voted to approve the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”). This is one of the few EIA’s approved in Chile during recent years and it will enable MSB to become the third significant lithium operation in the country with an anticipated 20,000 tonnes annual production for an estimated capital investment of US$563 million.
Focus will now be on finalising the financial structuring for the construction of the project, including possible off-take agreements. Assuming all necessary funding is obtained, construction is expected to commence by the end of Q3 2020.

The EIA was submitted by MSB to the Chilean Environmental Authority, Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental (SEA), in September 2018 and was the culmination of more than two years of field and desk work.

The process involved in-depth data gathering, a variety of environmental and engineering studies and monitoring campaigns carried out by experienced company management and consulting experts.

The resulting EIA was a comprehensive 11,400-page document, which included complete environmental baseline studies, hydrological and hydrogeological modelling, human, archaeological and fauna and flora characterisation, and impact evaluation.

The EIA also included a lengthy process of social engagement with the Colla indigenous communities in the area. In addition, significant consultation took place with regional authorities and local organisations, which are all interested parties in the EIA process.

Since the initial submission of the EIA, a 15-month review process was undertaken by the Chilean environmental authorities, during which time three rounds of observations, clarifications and further assessments were resubmitted.
MSB provided responses to the third and final review of the EIA by the environmental authorities in late November 2019, with the Environmental Evaluation Service recommending approval of the EIA on January 27, 2020. The Central Environmental Committee resolved to approve the project’s EIA today. Further information may be provided following a complete analysis of the details of the Chilean environmental authorities’ approval.

MSB’s Chief Executive Officer, Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro, commented:
“Receiving this regulatory approval is the final milestone in advancing our Maricunga project and reinforces our continued strong relationships with the Chilean Government. We are confident that the subsequent commencement of the construction will generate a positive impact both for the local communities and the country. Discussions with a number of international financial institutions and potential off-takers are underway and will now be speed up to acquire the necessary funding for the construction.”

Source: Company Press Release