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Berkeley Energia to pursue international arbitration over Spain’s rejection of uranium mine approval

Australian mining company Berkeley Energia has announced its intention to escalate its dispute with Spain to international arbitration after the country declined to grant final approval for a uranium mine near Salamanca. The Retortillo project, Berkeley’s primary asset, initially received preliminary approval in 2013 but has faced obstacles since then, including opposition from local communities and safety concerns from regulatory bodies.

With an estimated investment exceeding 250 million euros ($269 million) and the potential to create over 2,500 jobs in the region, the project’s development has been closely watched. However, Spain’s Energy Ministry refused to grant approval in 2021, citing a negative assessment from the Nuclear Safety Council regarding the safety analyses of the radioactive site. This decision was upheld in February 2023 following Berkeley’s appeal.

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In response, Berkeley Energia has announced plans to submit a “request for arbitration” to the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The company has enlisted the expertise of legal teams from Herbert Smith Freehills Spain LLP and LCS Abogados to prepare and file the arbitration request.

Despite the escalation of the dispute, Berkeley maintains its commitment to the Salamanca project and expresses willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with Spain to seek a mutually agreeable resolution. The Energy Ministry declined to provide comment on the matter.

Following Berkeley’s announcement, its shares experienced a significant increase in both Madrid and London markets. The company asserts that Spain’s rejection violates its rights under the Energy Charter Treaty, an international agreement aimed at promoting energy security and fostering open and competitive energy markets.

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