Lithium Power International (ASX:LPI) CEO & MD, Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro talks about progress with its Environmental Impact Assessment for its Maricunga lithium brine project in Northern Chile and its hard rock lithium projects in WA.
Jessica Amir: Thanks for tuning into the Finance News Network. I'm Jessica Amir, and with me today from Lithium Power International (ASX:LPI) is CEO Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro, who's just flown in from Chile. Great to see you again and welcome back to the network.
Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro: Thank you, Jessica. Nice to see you again.
Jessica Amir: So first up, well done, your share price is boding extremely well. As of today, the 20th of August, your share price is up over 40 per cent (year-on-year). I'd just like to pause on a little bit of an introduction to the business and what's fuelled this healthy rally.
Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro: So on the side of Chile, yeah, we just signed his MOU after almost a year of negotiations with Codelco, and this will be basically the sole vehicle of the Chilean government to participate on this lithium industry in Chile. The Maricungaproject is by far today the richest, grade project in Chile and also the most advanced one, probably almost in South America. This, well, for the government, is very important. This is a project that will be able to be built within the next couple of years. It's for sure going to be the next lithium project built in Chile, and for the government, is very important to be able to show that investment is moving forward again in the country and especially that foreign investment is coming back.
Companies that are basically partners of Codelco and other more traditional mining projects have been approaching us and no it’s we are definitely generating a lot of attraction here. In fact, I was in New York and Toronto last week, with basically a lot of meetings during the whole week. We presented at the Jefferies conference also in the middle of the week.
Jessica Amir: So for LPI, why is it so significant? And also, what does it mean that you've now entered this MOU with the government?
Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro: Basically, there are two important things here. The first one is because Codelco is also contributing with all their mining concessions in Maricunga, we will be able to increase the size of the project in terms of its annual production or just to extend the life of the project as we will probably be increasing significantly the resources of the project with these contributions. We will be concentrating all the permits necessary for the development of this project, especially the key CEOL contract, which is a special operation lithium contract. That is the first time in the history of Chile that it has been awarded. And the government did especially for Codelco, to be able to move forward with this agreement with LPI and MSB in Chile.
Jessica Amir: SoCristobal, can you explain why it's so significant to the government?
Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro: Basically, Maricunga is located at the thirdregion in Chile, which is one of the regions in the country that is showing the highest unemployment rates, and it has been hit by a couple of natural disasters within the last years and also suffers the most with this slow down on the copper industry within the last five years. So basically, this is a project that is very important for the local economy and it's something that the government is looking for.
Jessica Amir: So what's next for LPI and the government and Codelco?
Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro: Okay. We're now in the middle of the due diligence process of both companies and we're expecting that to be finalised before year end, and also to reach a definite agreement by the beginning of next year. It's not only has an importance in terms of what itcan meanat a valuation level for the company, but also what it means in terms of de-risking the project, the Maricunga project in Chile,because we will be consolidating more than 60 per cent of the exploitable area of the salar, and also 100 per cent of the permits necessary to be able to develop and build this project in the future.
Jessica Amir: You've hit the milestone. Crystal ball, looking out on the horizon, what's next?
Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro: Of course, finalising, in Chile's side, finalising the EIAprocess, will be one of the major milestones. We are also in the middle of the bidding process for the EPC contract, so we are expecting to finalise that by the end of November more or less.
And but also is what's going on here in Australia. We announced by the beginning of the year, we already started the development of our assets in WA. We have two groups of assets up north. At the Pilbara area we have TabbaTabba, Australia in Pilbara, and at the south, we have the Greenbushes. On the northern side, we already started our drilling for the exploration there. We're expecting to finalise that before year end to have some news for the market there. And on the Greenbushes area, we submitted our exploration plan to the forestry authorities and we're expecting to have some authorisation by the end of this quarter so we can start, so all the works by the fourth quarter this year.
Jessica Amir: Well it's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for stopping by on your whirlwind trip. I know you're extremely busy. Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro, thank you.
Cristobal Garcia-Huidobro: Thank you, Jessica, for having us here.