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Berkeley seeks $1 billion in damages from Spain over uranium mine dispute

FILE PHOTO: The Retortillo spa is seen near the site of a planned open-cast uranium mine by Australian mining company Berkeley Energia outside the village of Retortillo

MADRID (Reuters) - Australian mining group Berkeley Energia said on Tuesday it had filed a request for an arbitration to seek $1 billion in damages from the Spanish government after it refused to give final approval for its uranium mine project.

The Retortillo project, Berkeley's main asset, received preliminary approval in 2013, but Spain's Energy Ministry refused to approve the project located near the central city of Salamanca first in 2021 and again in 2023.

A spokesperson for the Energy Ministry said the government blocked the project based on a report from the country's Nuclear Security Council but declined to comment on the arbitration.

Berkeley filed an arbitration at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the company said in a filing to the Madrid stock market regulator.

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It accuses the government of infringing on its rights under an international agreement known as the Energy Charter Treaty, designed to promote energy security through the operation of more open and competitive energy markets.

Berkeley said it was still committed to the project and was ready to collaborate with Spain for a resolution and hopeful for near-term discussions.

The company has said in the past the mine would require a 250-million-euro ($271.85 million) investment and would have created more than 2,500 jobs.

Shares in Berkeley were up 5.4% following the arbitration disclosure.

($1 = 0.9196 euros)

(Reporting by Marta Serafinko; Edited by Inti Landauro, Jan Harvey and Bernadette Baum)