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SQM, Chile return to arbitration after lease dispute talks fall through

A legal dispute between Chile's state-backed development agency Corfo and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA over the latter's lithium lease in the Salar de Atacama region will return to arbitration after talks failed, according to an Oct. 16 SQM news release.

Corfo claims SQM attempted to block a competitive bidding process for the lease slated to take place by 2030. "According to press reports, the controller of SQM has demanded the extension of the contract, without bidding, beyond 2030," Corfo said.

The agency said in a separate Oct. 16 statement that SQM has not paid Chile the required revenues, has hidden information and "acted in bad faith." Corfo is calling for the early termination of SQM's lease.

SQM said it believes it has fulfilled its contractual obligations to Corfo. Eduardo Bitran, vice president of Corfo, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the government's demands remain unchanged.

"There's been no agreement between Corfo and SQM, and for this reason we will continue to insist that the Salar of Atacama be returned to the state by the company," he said.

A decision on the arbitration, which began in 2014, is expected to be handed down by the end of the year.