Lithium permit freeze limited to new projects, Argentina province says

The Sal de Vida lithium project in Argentina. (Image courtesy of Allkem Ltd.)

The Argentine province of Catamarca said a court ruling to halt the awarding of lithium permits only affects new projects, leaving companies such as Arcadium Lithium Plc and Posco Holdings Inc. free to continue producing the metal and developing existing projects.

The ruling, which comes amid community concerns over mining’s impact on waterways, requires the Catamarca government to abstain from handing out new licenses as it prepares a report into the industry’s environmental impact, a provincial official said. The province’s first step will be to deliver to the court existing environmental reports that have already been approved.

The court’s decision, which follows a suit filed by an Indigenous group, covers the Los Patos River-Salar del Hombre Muerto area, home to some of country’s biggest lithium deposits. While four projects awaiting licenses will be affected by the permitting freeze, existing operations and projects already under development can continue as normal, the official said.

Still, the case underscores heightened environmental and social scrutiny on an extraction method that involves pumping up huge volumes of lithium-laced brine from South American salt flats, with much of the water lost in an evaporation process. The industry’s ability to prove its green credentials is crucial as demand for the battery metal accelerates in the shift toward electric vehicles.

Arcadium, formed from the merger of Livent Corp. and Allkem Ltd., declined to comment as it prepares a statement on the court ruling.

(By James Attwood)

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