The Supreme Court of Argentina’s Catamarca province has ordered a halt on the construction of two significant Arcadium Lithium projects.

The decision comes after an injunction filed by an indigenous community, demanding a suspension of permits for the Fenix expansion and the development of Sal de Vida.

These projects, both located in the Antofagasta de la Sierra department, are now on hold until a comprehensive environmental impact study is completed.

The provincial mining ministry and the water resources department are tasked with conducting the impact study.

This study will assess the potential effects on the landscape, climate, flora and fauna.

Additionally, it will include an analysis of the impact on the Los Patos River and the Hombre Muerto salt flat basin.

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Permits and authorisations for the projects will remain suspended until the study is finalised, with the involvement of public organisations and the Altiplano Atacama community.

A chief of the Atacameños Native Community filed a case in 2021, claiming the province had approved mining projects in the Salar del Hombre Muerto basin without consulting the local community or conducting an environmental impact assessment. The ruling was shared with Reuters on Thursday.

Arcadium is a joint venture between Australia’s Allkem and US-based Livent.

The halted expansion at Fenix involves hydraulic works on the Los Patos River, which aims to increase lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) production capacity from 18,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) to 40,000tpa.

At the Sal de Vida project, also owned by Arcadium, the construction of wells and evaporation ponds is under way, with plans to commence production of 30,000tpa of LCE by 2027.

The suspension raises concerns about the future of employment and other initiatives intended to add value to the region, including Sal de Oro, Virgen del Valle Litio, Candelas and Hombre Muerto Oeste.