Sep 7, 2021

Albemarle begins audit of Chilean brine extraction project

mining
Albemarle
Sustainability
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Chemical manufacturer Albemarle begins an independent audit of its brine extraction project in Chile after government calls for reduction in water usage

Following a call from the Chilean government for mining companies to reduce their levels of water usage, leading lithium producer and global chemical manufacturer Albemarle has announced it is to begin an independent audit of its lithium brine extraction project located in the Salar de Atacama. 

The company will make its evaluations using the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance’s (IRMA) Standard, with the audit expanding 26 areas and assessing water management, human rights, and operational greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Albemarle’s third-party audit makes the company the first global lithium producer to commence such an assessment using the rigorous IRMA Standard,” the company said.

Albemarle reevaluates its freshwater processes

Ellen Lenny-Pessagno, Vice-president of lithium sustainability at Albemarle, is eager to reinforce the company’s ideology regarding its production processes. “How we produce lithium in the Salar de Atacama is as important as how much lithium we produce.

“This third-party audit process will help us not only better understand how we can continue to improve our sustainability efforts, but also assure our customers and communities that we will always do what is right.”

According to the company, less than 0.5% of the overall rights at the Salar basin were made up of its freshwater rights, and Albemarle remains adamant that no freshwater was used in its extraction and concentration process.

“We appreciate Albemarle’s leadership in initiating such a rigorous review and encourage the various stakeholders to share their perspectives with the auditors,” says IRMA’s Executive Director, Aimee Boulanger. “This is an opportunity to further protect this fragile region’s communities and the environment on which they depend, and for the market to value that effort.”

Miners called on to reduce water usage at Chilean operations

Keen to keep pace with the evolution of the industry, Albemarle has tailored its goals to align with that of its investors and contractors, pledging to decrease the intensity of its freshwater use by 25% before 2030 and increasing its focus on regions identified as possessing high or extremely high-water risk. 

Addressing its operational processes isn’t a novelty for Albemarle. The company previously pumped US$100mn into the development of a thermal evaporator at its La Negra plant, also located in Chile, optimistic that the new infrastructure would help boost conversion capacity without also increasing the need for freshwater as a consequence. Supposedly, this technology is a first for the lithium industry, and Albemarle isn’t afraid to boast about being the only producer to utilise its capabilities.

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