(Adds quotes from Corfo vice president, context)
By Fabian Cambero
ANTOFAGASTA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Chile’s Corfo will present an arbitration suit against lithium miner Albemarle by Dec. 15, the Chilean state development agency’s vice-president said on Monday, alleging the world’s top lithium producer had failed to adhere to the terms of a contract drawn up in 2016.
Under the contract, U.S.-based Albemarle must provide as much as 25 percent of its annual production at a discount to companies seeking to produce battery metals within Chile.
Corfo Vice President Sebastian Sichel told Reuters that Albemarle’s initial “preferential price” offer was too high and had violated the terms of its contract with the miner, prompting the agency to push forward with the previously announced arbitration.
“We are strategic partners, and we could have reached an agreement to benefit the establishment of this industry [in Chile] but the price they are offering does not do that,” Sichel said.
Corfo has said the clause that requires Albemarle to provide the ultralight battery metal at a reduced price is intended to help spur a value-added lithium industry.
Albemarle has previously decried what it considered the “substantial difference” between the contractual agreement and what Corfo is now demanding.
The U.S.-based miner said in October that it had made several price offers, and that it believed it had complied with its obligations to the Chilean government.
The arbitration case will be seen by the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, Corfo has said.
Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Dave Sherwood Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas