SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean environmental regulators have rejected plans by Albemarle Corp (ALB.N), the world’s top lithium producer, to expand output from the Salar de Atacama salt flat, according to filings with Chile’s Environmental Assessment Service (SEA).
SEA said in a resolution on Monday that Albemarle’s environmental impact statement, which included plans to build a new plant to produce 42,500 tonnes of lithium carbonate in northern Chile, lacked key information to gauge the project’s impact, prompting an “early termination” of its review.
“The applicant [Albemarle] does not present the details necessary to rule out significant adverse impacts on the quantity and quality of renewable natural resources, including the soil, water and air,” the regulator concluded in the Nov. 12 resolution, which was first reported by Reuters.
The regulator said Albemarle also failed to adequately consider threats to the Peruvian tern, an endangered species of bird that inhabits the region.
Albemarle’s expansion has been closely scrutinized by regulators in Chile, who have increasingly cracked down on water use by both copper and lithium miners in the Salar de Atacama, which lies at the heart of the world’s driest desert.