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Success for natives: Chile court halts contentious lithium project

Success for natives: Chile court halts contentious lithium project

Saturday 15 January 2022

Success for indigenous court in Chile halts contentious lithium project

The salt lakes of the Chilean Atamacama Desert form an excellent basis for lithium extraction. After the government initially promised two large corporations to finance a project worth millions, an appeals court has now thwarted the plan.
A Chilean appeals court has halted a controversial government bid for a multi-million dollar lithium mining project. The court in the northern city of Copiapó initially put the recent contract for a Chinese and a Chilean company on hold on Friday (local time). The bid sparked controversy because it came just two months before the end of Conservative President Sebastián Piñera’s term in office. The court upheld a lawsuit filed by Copiapó Governor Miguel Vargas and a group of indigenous communities inhabiting a salt flat in the Atacama Desert. While the government tender does not specify the exact location of lithium mining, the mineral is commonly found in salt-rich areas.

80,000 tons of lithium over 20 years

The Chinese subsidiary BYD Chile SpA and the Chilean company Servicios y Operaciones Mineras del Norte SA two days ago secured the contract for the production of 80,000 tons of lithium each over a period of 20 years, as the Ministry of Natural Resources announced on Wednesday. However, recently elected left-wing President Gabriel Boric’s team had asked the government to delay the tenders to allow the new government to discuss the terms of the contracts. Boric will take office in March. According to the Ministry of Mines, the tender was aimed at regaining Chile’s supremacy in the global lithium market. Until 2016, the country was the largest producer in the world with a market share of 37 percent. Today it is second behind Australia with 32 percent.

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