SQM’s main raw materials are caliche ore and brines, which are extracted from reserves located in the Tarapacá and Antofagasta Regions. Caliche is a mineral that exists almost exclusively in Chile. In fact, the country boasts the most important commercially exploitable reserves in the world. The mineral has high concentrations of sodium nitrate and iodine and is found beneath inert material no more than two meters below the desert’s surface, in layers two to three meters thick.
The underground salt brines found in the Salar de Atacama present high concentrations of lithium and potassium. The main products derived from this resource are potassium chloride, lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide, potassium sulphate and boric acid. It is important to note that these two resources complement each other to create one of the company’s most important products: potassium nitrate.
The main sources of energy used in SQM’s production processes include solar energy, electricity obtained from the Great North Interconnected System (SING); and fuels such as oil and natural gas.
Of these, solar energy is the most widely used and plays an especially important role in the solar evaporation ponds in Coya Sur, Nueva Victoria and the Salar de Atacama. A considerable portion of the company’s total energy requirements are met by the sun, making SQM’s location in the Atacama Desert—with its high radiation and high rate of water evaporation—a major advantage. These conditions allow the company to execute processes designed to concentrate solutions in ponds through selective precipitation year-round using solar energy.
Currently, SQM owns over 3.000 hectares of solar evaporation ponds, which allows it to harness significant amounts of solar energy—close to 91% of all energy consumed in our facilities. In other words, over 90% of the energy that is consumed by the company comes from a renewable source.
“Close to 91% of the energy that is consumed by the company comes from a renewable source”