SANTIAGO, June 23 (Reuters) - The world's No. 1 copper producer Codelco is expected to make its decision on who to partner with to develop its lithium assets in the first quarter of next year, Chile's Mining Minister Aurora Williams told Reuters on Thursday.
Lithium is an important ingredient in rechargeable batteries and is used in electric cars. Annual demand for lithium is forecast to more than double by 2020 from 95,000 tonnes now.
Most lithium is produced in Australia and Chile, with the bulk of the world's reserves straddling huge salt flats in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
At the beginning of the year Chile's government asked Codelco to study the production potential of its Maricunga and Pedernales salt flats.
With the study in hand "Codelco will be able to have a business model and look for a partner in the first quarter next year, which in practice will allow it to develop Maricunga and/or Pedernales," said Williams.
Major global lithium producers include Chile's SQM . (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)