SANTIAGO Oct 1 Chile has revoked a decision
allowing local firm and world No.1 lithium producer SQM to
develop a new concession to produce the mineral in the country,
the government said on Monday, after a rival bidder challenged
the terms of the deal.
Chile is the world's top supplier of lithium, widely used in
products ranging from hybrid vehicles to smartphone batteries,
accounting for around 40 percent of global supplies.
Contracts for lithium production can be awarded under
special circumstances despite a constitutional ban on
concessions that has curbed output.
Rival bidder Li Energy Spa said that SQM had not
met the tender's requirements as it has legal matters pending
with the state.
Lithium, iodine and fertilizer firm SQM had been awarded a
20-year concession on Sept. 24 for around $40.6 million.
The mining ministry said late on Monday that the entire
lithium tender had been invalidated. Other bidders had included
a consortium comprising Li Energy, Posco Ltd, Mitsui & Co
and Daewoo International Corp.
Some in Chile had decried the tender, accusing the
government of surrendering a valuable resource to private hands.
Critics had also blasted the ministry for awarding the
concession to SQM, whose chairman is ex-dictator Augusto
Pinochet's former son-in-law and whose chief operating officer
is the brother of Mining Minister Hernan de Solminihac.
The minister did not participate in the development of the
lithium contracts to avoid a conflict of interest, however.
(Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Joseph Radford)