It was the beginning of September and from Shanghai, China, Jing Li, vice president of Tsingshan, a Chinese mining company, traveled to South America with an agenda of meetings that included a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located at 150 Teatinos Street, in the middle of center of Santiago.
He arrived at the offices of the former Hotel Carrera accompanied by Santiago Bustelo, adviser of the Cooperation Agenda with the People’s Republic of China of the Ministry of Productive Development of Argentina, and they met with the Undersecretary of International Economic Relations, José Miguel Ahumada. The face-to-face meeting, whose registration is public by Lobbying Law, lasted for an hour and served the Chinese mining company not only to address the future of the lithium industry, but also to make transparent its intentions to expand its investments in this market in Chile.
At the meeting, the head of the service dependent on the Foreign Ministry was accompanied by the institution’s Director of Studies, Simón Accorsi, and Diego Pérez Alfonso, a lawyer and member of the team of advisers to Undersecretary Ahumada.
According to the official minutes of the meeting, “he presented his project for the installation in Antofagasta of an ecological-industrial park for the production of lithium batteries, storage cells and the assembly of small electric cars as a contribution to the increasingly urgent socio-ecological transition. due to the impact of climate change, and a contribution to the new development model promoted by Chile”.
This is Tsingshan’s second investment in Latin America, joining the Centenario Ratones lithium plant, in which they invested US$400 million in 2021 together with the French company Eramet, and which will produce 48,000 tons of lithium carbonate with friendly technology. with environmentally friendly DLC (Direct Lithium Extraction).
“Tsingshan wants to present his industrial park plan for Antofagasta, which would initially add Ruipu Energy, Battery Tech Y FoxESS, holding companies with experience in the production of lithium batteries, energy storage cells and inverters. Likewise, Tsingshan is part of the Chinese electromobility ecosystem, with commercial associations with more than a dozen of the most relevant global producers in the electromobility industry, including SAIC Motors, CATL, HANWA and Huayou; They would also work with them in this Chilean industrial park for the assembly of batteries, storage cells and, initially, small electric cars from SAIC (Wuling)”, stated the same document cited.
Tsinghan is the world’s leading producer of nickel (an element for lithium batteries) and the world’s leading producer of stainless steel. Today it is the 8th largest producer of lithium batteries in China. It has invested more than US$10 billion since 2009 in Indonesia to establish two industrial parks for nickel and other elements for the electromobility industry. Tsingshan explained his interest in establishing the aforementioned industrial park in Chile, open to all companies in the world that want to add value to lithium in Chile.
The Undersecretariat for International Economic Relations declined to comment on this article.
The Undersecretary for International Economic Relations, José Miguel Ahumada, is one of the authorities of the current government administration closest to President Gabriel Boric. He is a firm defender of a more active role for the State in the productive matrix. In his opinion, he should not only be concerned with guaranteeing free trade, but also with comprehensive development.
Ahumada, a former assistant professor at the Institute of International Studies at the University of Chile, is also noted as a supporter of the development model of Finland, Norway and Sweden. Along with other authors, he wrote “The Nordic Lesson”, a book in whose launch President Boric himself was present, and which analyzes the growth cases of these countries.
The political scientist from the Diego Portales University is in favor of Chile placing emphasis on renewable energies as the axis for productive change and on giving value to lithium to generate a sector beyond mere extraction.
On July 11, through his Twitter account (@jmahumadaf) he wrote:
“From @subrei_chile we seek to develop a commercial policy that is an engine of the country’s economic activity through the diversification of our exportable offer. In addition to the strengthening of investments in strategic areas such as green hydrogen, lithium, renewable energies, and the addition of value to the different productive sectors of the country”.