SANTIAGO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - The Chilean government has short-listed seven companies to develop value-added lithium projects in the country, state development agency CORFO said on Tuesday, the latest move in Chile's push to diversify its exports.
Chile is part of South America's "lithium triangle," home to more than half the known global reserves of the mineral, which plays an essential part in electric car batteries. Lithium currently must be sent abroad to be developed into consumer products, and Chile's government wants to change that.
In March, CORFO invited bids from companies to manufacture value-added products from Chile's lithium - access to which is generally limited as it is considered a strategic resource - and in July it announced that 12 companies from seven countries had applied. The winner will secure a steady supply of lithium at a favorable price as part of a deal CORFO made with U.S.-based supplier Albemarle Corp.
On Tuesday, the government said Russia's TVEL/Rosatom, South Korea's Samsung SDI Co, Belgium's Umicore, Chile's Molymet and China's Fulin Group, Jiangmen Kanhoo Industry Co and Gansu DET Co had advanced to the short list.
Among the proposals put forth by the companies are the production of metallic lithium, active ingredients in lithium-ion batteries, and various types of cathodes.
In July, CORFO Executive Vice President Eduardo Bitran told journalists the selection process should be completed around January and that more than one winner could be selected. Projects resulting from the auction, he said, should come online in 2019. (Reporting by Gram Slattery)