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UPDATE 1-Albemarle touts new project to boost its Chilean lithium output by 30 percent

Ernest Scheyder

30 percent@ (Adds details from conference call, background)

May 9 (Reuters) - Albemarle Corp said on Thursday it is moving forward on a project it claims will boost its Chilean lithium production by 30 percent without extracting more brine from the environmentally sensitive Salar de Atacama, the world's driest desert.

The company, the world's largest producer of the white metal used to make electric vehicle batteries, has teased the industry that it has production-enhancing technology for more than a year. The lack of details, though, has irked some investors and Chilean authorities.

Chief Executive Luke Kissam said on Thursday the company has successfully tested the process in a laboratory and in field tests, has ordered equipment and plans to start construction during the second quarter.

"There's not any specially made pieces of equipment or things like that. So we feel confident in our ability to execute this project," Kissam told investors on a conference call.

The project should be commissioned by 2021, Kissam said, without providing its cost. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder Additional reporting by Fabian Cambero in Santiago Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Phil Berlowitz)

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