The Court of Appeals of Copiapó, the center-north of Chile, suspended on Friday a million-dollar state lithium tender published last Wednesday and that generated controversy for being held two months after the end of the government of conservative Sebastián Piñera.
“Bearing in mind that the contested act is in full execution, it is agreed not to innovate, paralyzing the lithium bidding and award process, while this appeal is resolved,” the court said in its resolution, to which the court had access. AFP.
According to the temporarily suspended tender, the companies BYD Chile SpA (with Chinese capital) and Servicios y Operación Mineras del Norte (Chilean) obtained the extraction contracts for two quotas of 80,000 tons of metallic lithium for 20 years.
In a statement, the Ministry of Mining noted that the tender has not been the subject of a “definitive cancellation” and that the process has been “open, informed, transparent and has complied with all current legislation.” In addition to responding to the court’s decision within the terms provided by law.
Just on Wednesday, Gabriel Boric, the president-elect who will take office on March 11, asked to stop the process. “It was an exclusive attribution of the Chilean government in office and it seems to us that (the tender) is bad news, and it reminds me of those ‘mooring laws’ that were made at the last minute when a government is already leaving its functions,” the leftist politician pointed out.
While the Minister of Energy, Juan Carlos Gobet, assured that it would allow “more than 120 million dollars” to be raised.
The Court accepted an appeal for protection filed by the governor of Copiapó, Miguel Vargas, together with a group of Aymara and Diaguita indigenous communities that inhabit a salt flat in the Atacama desert.
Although the government tender does not stipulate the place of lithium extraction, the salt flats of northern Chile are the places where the main deposits of this mineral are found.
This appeal was presented in parallel to another raised by the center-left opposition before the Comptroller’s Office to, through this administrative channel, determine the legality of the bidding process.
According to the Mining portfolio, the process seeks to recover Chile’s position in the world lithium market. Until 2016, the country was the world’s largest producer, with 37% of the market, but today it ranks second behind Australia, with 32%.
If the country fails to increase its production, by 2030 its share would fall to 17%, according to official data.