Argentine court in key lithium region halts new permits over environmental concerns

Livent’s Fénix lithium project in Catamarca, Argentina. (Image by Livent).

An Argentine court in the northwestern province of Catamarca has suspended the issuance of new mining permits, demanding fresh environmental impact studies be carried out looking at local lithium projects, a judgment seen by Reuters showed.

The ruling involves the Los Patos River-Salar del Hombre Muerto area, where global lithium giant Arcadium Lithium Plc, formerly Livent, has a project. It comes after tensions over water use with local communities in the region.

Argentina, inside South America’s so-called “lithium triangle”, is one of the world’s top producers of the metal that is key for the batteries needed to power electric vehicles.

A local company spokesperson declined to comment.

The ruling, shared with Reuters on Thursday, comes after a case presented in 2021 by a chief of the Atacameños Native Community, which alleged the province authorized mining projects in the Salar del Hombre Muerto basin without informing the population or carrying out an environmental impact assessment.

The case said that local mining operations impacted water supply due to the use of “huge quantities of fresh and salt water”, which they alleged had caused a local river to dry up.

A source from Catamarca’s mining ministry, told Reuters that the province was evaluating the ruling to determine next steps.

The court ordered the local government to “refrain from granting new permits/authorizations” in relation to operations in the Los Patos River – Salar del Hombre Muerto area “until the new environmental impact study is complete”.

Four sources in the industry Reuters spoke to said the sector would have to work on the impact studies to define how they would be able to develop the projects, although in principle the decision would not impact current production.

(By Lucila Sigal; Editing by Adam Jourdan)


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