Chile presidential hopeful says he wants state lithium firm

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Chile presidential hopeful says he wants state lithium firm

SANTIAGO, Dec 1 Reuters -- Chilean leftist presidential candidate Gabriel Boric, the front-runner in surveys ahead of a Dec. 19 run-off vote, talked about his plans for a state lithium firm on Wednesday and slammed the Andean country's historic mistake of privatizing its resources.

Chile, located on the lithium triangle of South America, has the world's largest reserves of ultra-light battery metal, which is key to the booming development of electric vehicles. Chile, a regional bastion of market-friendly policies and privatization in recent decades, is the second largest producer behind Australia. Its major mine operators include Albemarle Corp and local player SQM.

Chile can't make a historic mistake by privatizing resources, and we're going to create the National Lithium Company, according to Boric.

He said the move would help create jobs and put a Chilean seal on the product.

Lithium is a mineral of the future, used in millions of electronic devices. Boric previously included plans for a state lithium firm in his campaign program, but kept quiet on the topic in the run-up to the first round vote on Nov. 21, where he came a close second.

Boric will be facing far-right rival Jose Antonio Kast in the run-off, with surveys giving the leftist a big lead.

Chile is the world's largest producer of copper, and lawmakers are currently debating plans to raise royalty payments for mining firms to bolster state coffers and fund social spending to bounce back from the impact of the COVID 19 epidemic.

Chile's state-owned Codelco is the world's largest producer of copper, though many private firms also mine copper in Chile.