Saudi mining minister to visit Chile in July, source says

FILE PHOTO: World Economic Forum (WEF) in Riyadh

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's mining minister plans to meet with his Chilean counterpart in Santiago at the end of July to discuss potential investments in lithium, a Chilean government source said on Friday.

Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef told Reuters in a recent interview that the Middle Eastern country is interested in obtaining lithium overseas as it aims to enter the electric vehicle (EV) sector.

Chile is the world's second-biggest producer of lithium, a material key to making the batteries that power EVs. The global shift towards EVs has created a rush by carmakers and global powers for the ultralight metal.

Chilean newspaper Diario Financiero first reported plans for the Saudi visit to Chile, saying Alkhorayef was expected to meet with mining minister Aurora Williams. It also said Saudi Arabia was interested in meeting with Codelco and Enami, the state-run mining companies tasked with bringing the Chilean government into the lithium industry.

Both companies are seeking private sector partners to launch new lithium projects - Codelco in the Maricunga salt flat, and Enami in brine deposits known as Altoandinos.

The Mining Ministry and Codelco did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Enami said it has not received any meeting requests from Saudi officials or companies.

Chile's mining ministry in April said it had been approached by the Saudi embassy in Santiago about hosting a delegation this year to discuss potential investments in the sector.

Saudi ambassador in Chile Khalid Alsaloom in a social media post last week said he met with Williams to discuss topics of mutual interest.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Fabian Cambero; Editing by Sam Holmes)