On October 15, Rosatom’s mining subsidiary, Uranium One, signed a memorandum of understanding with Canada’s Wealth Minerals that gives it the right to buy a controlling stake in a major lithium project in Chile’s Atacama desert. Wealth Mineral’s decision to sign the agreement is motivated in part by Uranium One’s possession of processing technology that uses a catalyst material to extract lithium, avoiding the need for time-consuming solar exploration. Rosatom said it was interested in lithium projects in general “as part of the supply chain of the exponentially growing sustainable energy sector.” A spokesman added, “We use lithium as a raw material in our production and high value-added manufacturing so integration into lithium mining is an organic step forward.”
In May 2018, Rosatom’s overseas cooperation office signed an MoU with Chile’s Commission on Nuclear Energy on cooperation in Chile’s nuclear and lithium sectors, potentially laying the groundwork for this development. Uranium One’s likely acquisition comes as foreign investors compete to win a part of Chile’s lithium resources, which are crucial in the development of battery technology. China’s Tianqi Lithium signed a $4 billion deal in December 2018 to acquire a minority stake in Chilean lithium company SQM.