We mine and process caliche ore and.
This term derives from the Quechua word that initially called this mineral "Cachi", which stands for "salt" in this language. The term evolved to "Calchi", until it became "Caliche", as it is known nowadays.
The caliche ore in northern Chile contains the only known nitrate and iodine deposits in the world and is the world's largest commercially exploited source of natural nitrates.
From our caliche ore deposits, we produce a wide range of nitrate-based products used for specialty plant nutrients and industrial applications (sodium nitrate, potassium nitrate, sodium potassium nitrate), as well as iodine and iodine derivatives.
Caliche ore is found under a layer of barren overburden in seams with variable thickness from twenty centimeters to five meters, and with the overburden varying in thickness from half a meter to one and a half meters.
• Caliche leaching process
Caliche is taken from the shallow surfaces where it is located, using explosives. Once mined, SQM processes the mineral: the crushing and leaching processes are the starting point to recover salts contained therein, that is, iodine and sodium nitrate. Based on these, SQM generates a wide range of final products, that go from their most basic form to complex derivatives downstream, with a full variety of business applications.
Click here to learn some more about the productive process.
The main iodine and sodium nitrate plants owned by SQM are Pedro de Valdivia and María Elena, among others. Great scientific experience on caliche properties and their exploitation techniques have been developed there. This knowledge, compiled through decades, forms a solid base on which the company can maintain its leadership position in costs and simultaneously, ensure a sustainable development of its commercial activity.
If iodine and sodium nitrate production levels keep even to current ones, confirmed caliche reserves belonging to SQM will last approximately 40 more years.