Sigma Lithium questions reporting on Brazil mineral rights ‘injunction’

Construction at the Grota do Cirilo lithium project in Brazil. (Image courtesy of Sigma Lithium.)

Sigma Lithium on Friday challenged a Reuters report that a Brazilian court had imposed an “injunction” on its ability to sell or mine two plots where it planned open pits, and reiterated that it saw no hurdle to its expansion plans.

In a press release, Sigma said “recent media reports” had “incorrectly denominated as an ‘injunction'” a Brazilian judge’s ruling in a lawsuit between the company’s former co-CEOs. Sigma’s spokesperson and lawyers have repeatedly referred to the ruling as an “injunction” in recent weeks.

Reuters reported on Thursday that a Sao Paulo state judge issued an injunction in late June over a May transfer in which Sigma received, at no cost, the mineral rights to the plots from a subsidiary of a company called RI-X Mineracao e Consultoria.

The injunction, Reuters reported, was imposed after Sigma’s former co-CEO, Calvyn Gardner, accused its current CEO, his wife Ana Cabral-Gardner, of misusing her powers as a majority shareholder in RI-X to push through the transfer.

At the time of the transfer, Gardner owned 49% of RI-X and Cabral-Gardner held 51%. The two are currently getting divorced.

Gardner’s lawyers argued the transfer would grant Sigma mineral rights to valuable lithium deposits and hurt RI-X’s ability to develop its own mining project.

While the judge did not reverse the transfer, the injunction froze Sigma’s ability to sell, mine or use the two plots as collateral, Reuters reported, citing the court documents.

In its report, Reuters cited Sigma’s view that the ruling would not affect its plans, as it said it can develop the area via a “waste sharing agreement” it signed with RI-X in August.

“The injunction has no impact on our operations,” a company spokesperson said on Tuesday in an initial statement to Reuters.

In subsequent comments later on Tuesday and on Wednesday, Sigma again referred to the judge’s ruling as an “injunction.”

Sigma’s lawyers also described the decision as an injunction in the Portuguese-language court documents viewed by Reuters.

“The maintenance of the injunction … affects the free development of Sigma Mineracao’s business,” they wrote in a Aug. 28 petition asking the judge to reverse his decision.

Asked on Friday why it had changed its characterization of the court decision, a Sigma press representative said the question would be referred to the company’s legal counsel.

Sigma shares, which on Thursday erased 4% gains to close more than 2% lower after the Reuters report, were up about 1% in midday Friday trading.

In Friday’s public statement, Sigma reiterated its previous position that the injunction would not hurt its expansion, as it said it can develop the area via a “waste sharing agreement” it signed with RI-X in August.

RI-X, which is controlled by Sigma CEO Cabral-Gardner, said in a Friday statement that the transfer of rights would not impact its future operations and it did not appeal the judge’s decision in the lawsuit.

(By Fabio Teixeira and Sourasis Bose; Editing by Devika Syamnath, Gabriel Stargardter, Brad Haynes and Daniel Wallis)


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