Chile files arbitration suit against Albemarle over lithium royalties

Albemarle has major lithium projects in Chile’s huge Atacama salt flats, pictured here. (Image by Valerio Pillar, Wikimedia Commons)

Chile has launched an arbitration process against U.S.-based miner Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, for allegedly underpaying royalties on its sales, the head of the state development office told a local newspaper on Sunday.

Pablo Terrazas, head of Corfo which handles the lithium contracts, told daily El Mercurio that the office had filed the request on Friday with the International Chamber of Commerce, demanding around $15 million extra in payments for 2020.

Albemarle has major lithium projects in Chile’s huge Atacama salt flats, which hold one of the world’s largest deposits of lithium, an ultra-light metal needed for batteries powering the shift towards electric vehicles.

Chile is demanding around $15 million extra in payments for 2020

Albemarle did not immediately respond to a written request for comment on Sunday.

Terrazas said that the method of calculating the commission Albemarle paid to Chile was incorrectly used last year, which meant it had paid around $44 million, short of what he said should have been around $60 million.

“We have no doubt that we are going to recover the $15 million that have been missed in 2020 and we hope that the company will reconsider,” he said, adding that in previous years the agreement had been handled in good faith.

In November, Corfo had advised legislators that it was preparing litigation against Albemarle.

In 2018, Corfo and Albemarle faced a similar conflict, though eventually reached an agreement without formally reaching arbitration.

(By Fabian Cambero and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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