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Chilean regulator defends approval of lithium miner SQM's remediation plan

Chile's environmental regulator defended in court its 2019 approval of Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA's US$25 million plan to remediate damage from overdrawing lithium-rich brine from the Atacama salt flat, Reuters reported Jan. 15.

Chile's Environmental Superintendent, SMA, approved SQM's plan, which a local environmental court in Antofagasta later judged to be insufficient, the report noted.

SMA said the lower court's argument that the plan failed to safeguard the environment is "unfounded" and appealed the court decision, which will now be heard in the Chilean Supreme Court.

If the appeal succeeds, it could end years of legal and regulatory battles over the charges that SQM had overdrawn brine from the salt flat. If the appeal fails, SMA must reopen sanctions against the lithium miner, raising further questions about SQM's Atacama expansion plans.

The lower court said SQM has no way of proving and SMA has no way of verifying if the measures proposed were capable of "containing and reducing or eliminating the negative effects generated by the breaches of the company," according to the newswire.

SQM did not reply to Reuters' request for comment regarding the matter.