Indian miner sues Uruguay for $3.5 billion

Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez. Photo by Gobierno de la República de Mexico, Wikimedia Commons.

President Tabaré Vázquez confirmed today on national radio that Aratirí, a subsidiary of Zamin Ferrous, formalized a $3.5 billion lawsuit against Uruguay alleging that the passing of a new mining law turned out to be a major change in the game rules.

Vázquez explained that even though the firm of Indian capitals presented its complaint before the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law back in 2017, it was in July this year that it filed actual evidence of its dealings with the Uruguayan government.

Zamin Ferrous -and Aratirí-, owned by former billionaire Pramod Agarwal, acquired exploration and development permits for an open-pit iron ore mine called the Valentines project. The three-phase development includes the construction of underground slurry and return water pipelines to connect the mine to a deepwater port, to be built on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast.

The iron ore project would have spanned five departments in the centre-west part of the country and it was set to generate $1.4 billion in exports annually over the 20 years of its life cycle.

In a communiqué cited by the Iberoamerican Arbitration Court’s magazine, Aratirí is quoted as saying that among the changes in the game rules that pushed management to sue the Uruguayan state are:

  • That after suggesting the specific place where the deepwater port had to be located, which was a lot that belongs to the Ministry of Defense, and after allowing company experts to conduct a series of studies, government officials decided to change the suggested location.
  • That later on, the government repealed regulations on deepwater ports and generated uncertainty around where the structure was to be built.
  • That, finally, when the company asked the government to go back to the original plan, the Ministry of Defense refused to allow the construction of the port on its property.

According to the miner, these situations halted the development of the project and caused major loses to investors.

In his radio intervention, the Uruguayan president said that government representatives, such as officials from the Environment Directorate, a former minister of mining and energy, and the current secretary of the presidency, will travel to Washington this week where they will meet with a lawyer from Foley Koag. The firm already defended Uruguay in lawsuits filed by Phillip Morris, Argentina and Italba.

The final trial, Vazquez said, will be held in Paris in mid-December before three judges at the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration. The leader said that he is convinced that his country will win the case.