SQM is a company with worldwide presence focusing on a variety of industries. It has 5 business areas: Specialty Plant Nutrition (SPN), Iodine and derivatives, Lithium and derivatives Production of Industrial Chemicals and Potassium. It is in all its business lines, the largest producer in the world in these niches and markets.
Over 2 billion dollars in sales and has commercial offices in more than 20 countries, which enables SQM to offer its business formulae to customers in 110 countries throughout Europe, America, Asia and Oceania. To reach that worldwide leadership, many important investments have been made. Not just to increase the production capacity, but also to train the personnel, to fund R&D, to improve technology and to finance all kinds of actions focused upon acquiring a better understanding of the profound needs of the customers.
Thus, today SQM not just offers top quality products and services but pursues a much more ambitious goal: the success of its customers throughout the world. On top of being an excellent supplier, SQM has become a business ally in the search of better solutions for its customers.
However, a process of almost four decades preceded the point where the company consolidated its leadership and carried across its mission to its customers. During that time SQM reinvented itself more than once in order to meet the high efficiency levels imposed by the changing global markets, while at the same time meeting the demanding response levels from their customers worldwide. But time did not pass in vain.
SQM a genuine success story
SQM was founded in 1968 to reorganize the Chilean nitrate industry. In the course of the first phase the ownership was shared between the Chilean State and the Compañía Nitratera Anglo Lautaro S.A. During the second phase the industry was nationalised and was thus fully owned by the Chilean State. Finally in 1983 the process of privatisation started and was successfully completed in 1988. Today SQM invests in its customers: in understanding their most profound needs and offering them the best business formulae to guarantee their growth
The Guggenheim family acquires land in the El Toco sector and opens the María Elena nitrate office.
Pedro de Valdivia begins operations using the Guggenheim production system to manufacture sodium nitrate and iodine.
A nitrate crystallizing plant is built in Coya Sur in order to take advantage of nitrate precipitation from solar evaporation ponds.
SQM is created through the merger of Corporación de Ventas de Salitre y Yodo, Compañía Salitrera Anglo Lautaro, Compañía Victoria and the Chilean g overnment.
SQM is nationalized, with CORFO taking c ontrol of 100%.
SQM’s privatization process begins, concluding in 1988, and private pension funds acquire an ownership s take.
Important production developments are incorporated during this decade and the heap leaching process is first applied in e xtracting nitr ates and iodine.
The potassium nitrate facility at Coya Sur begins production using a completely new process designed b y SQM.
Operations begin at technicalgrade potassium nitrate facility. This same year, the Company completes its first share issuance on international markets through its ADR pr ogram.
SQM begins producing potassium chloride in the Salar de Atacama. The Company ’s second issuance of ADR takes place to access funds from international mark ets.
SQM begins producing lithium carbonate, which is made from lithium brines from the Salar de Atacama, in its facilities in the Salar del Carmen.
The Company expands its potassium chloride production in the Salar de Atacama and builds a new potassium nitrate plant at Coya Sur.
A commercial distribution agreement is signed with the Norwegian company Yara International (ASA), enabling SQM to achieve significant cost synergies and geographic coverage for its specialty plant nutrition business.
Lithium carbonate production capacity in the Salar del Carmen is increased to 32,000 tons per year.
SQM purchases Kemira Emirates Fertilizers Company (Kefco)—a company that manufactures soluble fertilizers. This same year, lithium hydroxide production begins in a new plant built in the Salar del Carmen, adjacent to the lithium c arbonate plan t.
SQM acquires DSM’s iodine business in Chile and makes investments to expand the production capacity of its iodine plant in Nueva Victoria.
Production begins at the new nitrate prilling and granulation plant at Coya Sur.
SQM increases its lithium carbonate capacity to 40,000 tons per year. The same year, SQM enters into a joint venture with Migao Corporation to produce and distribute potassium nitrate in China.
SQM signs new joint ventures with Coromandel (India), Qingdao Star (China) and Roullier (France).
In Dubai, SQM Vitas launches a new line of soluble phosphate products.
Production commences in a new potassium nitrate plant in Coya Sur, increasing production by 300,000 tons per year. Also, a potassium nitrate plant is inaugurated in China together with Migao Corporation, expanding SQM’s presence in the Asian market.
SQM expands production capacity of potassium products in its facilities in the Salar de Atacama, achieving production of approximately 2 million tons per year. Lithium carbonate production capacity in the Salar del Carmen reaches 48,000 tons per year. Iodine production in Nueva Victoria increases, giving SQM total installed capacity of 12,500 tons of iodine per year.