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SQM Announces Changes to El Toco and Pampa Blanca Operations

February 23, 2010

SANTIAGO, Chile, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Sociedad Quimica y
Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM) (NYSE: SQM; Santiago Stock Exchange: SQM-B, SQM-A)
announced today the suspension of operations at its El Toco and Pampa Blanca mining facilities.

The decision to suspend these operations comes as a response to decreased
global demand for nitrates and iodine. Demand for these two businesses was
significantly affected by the financial crisis that began in the fourth
quarter of 2008. Lower sales volumes registered during the last 15 months have
translated into an increase in SQM’s nitrate and iodine inventories.

Analyzing the current market situation, Patricio Contesse, SQM’s Chief
Executive Officer, commented, “The year 2010 will be a transition year in
terms of volumes for specialty fertilizers and iodine. We project that sales
volumes will increase compared to 2009 reaching, by the end of 2010, growth
rates similar to those observed during the beginning of 2008. We believe these
higher growth rates will mean continued and consistent volume recovery in the
future years.” With respect to production capacity he added, “Our installed
capacity and available inventory will allow us to respond quickly and
efficiently in the event that demand recovers at faster rates than originally
projected.”

As a result of the suspension of these operations, SQM nitrate production
for the year 2010 should decline slightly compared to 2009. Sodium nitrate
production will decline as a result of the suspension of the El Toco mining
operation and will be partially offset by the operations at the new potassium
nitrate facility in Coya Sur, scheduled to begin operating during the second
half of 2010. This plant, with state-of-the-art technology, will process
nitrate salts from mining operations in the I Region, with production costs
estimated to be significantly lower than current costs.

Regarding iodine, we estimate that 2010 production should fall
approximately 20% compared to the previous year. As a result, production
volumes for 2010 should be similar to those recorded in 2008.

Finally, in relation to expansion plans in the Salar de Atacama, Patricio
Contesse
commented, “The projects have moved forward according to plans, and
for this year we are expecting potassium chloride production to be slightly
higher than 1.4 million metric tons compared to the approximately 1.1 million
metric tons (potassium chloride and potassium sulfate) produced in 2009. Our
future investment plans are in line with this trend, and our total production
should reach approximately 1.8 million metric tons during 2012.”

SQM is an integrated producer and distributor of specialty plant
nutrients, iodine and lithium. Its products are based on the development of
high quality natural resources that allow the Company to be leader in costs,
supported by a specialized international network with sales in over 100
countries. SQM’s development strategy aims to maintain and strengthen the
Company’s world leadership in its three core businesses: Specialty Plant
Nutrition, Iodine and Lithium.

    For further information, contact:
    Patricio Vargas, 56-2-4252485 / patricio.vargas@sqm.com
    Mary Laverty, 56-2-4252074 / mary.laverty@sqm.com

For media inquiries, contact: Fernanda Guerra, 56-2-4252027 /
fernanda.guerra@sqm.com

Statements in this press release concerning the Company’s business
outlook, future economic performances, anticipated profitability, revenues,
expenses, or other financial items, anticipated cost synergies and product or
service line growth, together with other statements that are not historical
facts, are “forward-looking statements” as that term is defined under Federal
Securities Laws.

Any forward-looking statements are estimates, reflecting the best judgment
of SQM based on currently available information and involve a number of risks,
uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ
materially from those stated in such statements. Risks, uncertainties, and
factors that could affect the accuracy of such forward-looking statements are
identified in the public filing made with the Securities and Exchange
Commission, and forward-looking statements should be considered in light of
those factors.

SOURCE SQM


Source: newswire