Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA (SQM) is suspending operations at its El Toco and Pampa Blanca mining facilities following a decline in global demand for nitrates and iodine.

The company’s lower sales volumes registered during the last 15 months have translated into an increase in its nitrate and iodine inventories.

SQM chief executive officer Patricio Contesse said 2010 will mark a transition in terms of volume for specialty fertilisers and iodine.

Due to the suspension of operations, the company said its sodium nitrate operations would decline and will be partially counterbalanced by the operations at the new potassium nitrate facility in Coya Sur.

For 2010, iodine production will decline by about 20% compared with the previous year, taking this year’s production level to those recorded in 2008.