January 15, 2020 / 1:21 PM / 12 days ago

Chile regulator says lithium miner SQM compliance plan adequate, appeals lower court decision

SANTIAGO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Chile’s environmental regulator appealed a lower court decision that struck down a $25 million plan by top lithium miner SQM to remediate damage it caused to the Atacama salt flat, according to court filings on Wednesday, setting the stage for a new and prolonged legal battle.

Chile’s Environmental Superintendent (SMA) approved the compliance plan in 2019 after a multi-year investigation that found SQM had over-drawn lithium-rich brine from the salt flat. But a local environmental court in Antofagasta in December invalidated the plan, calling it “insufficient.”

The regulator defended its decision to approve the compliance plan in the filings, calling the lower court’s arguments “unfounded.” It accused judges of cherry-picking information and “omitting... evidence that had been pondered by the SMA.”

Reporting by Dave Sherwood Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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