SANTIAGO, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Chief Executive Officer Jochen Tilk met on Thursday with authorities in Chile as the Canadian fertilizer company tries to divest its minority stake in Chilean lithium miner SQM ahead of its proposed merger with rival Agrium Inc.

Tilk met with Eduardo Bitran, head of Chilean government development agency Corfo, which has been embroiled in a legal dispute over mining royalties with SQM since May 2014. Corfo has demanded early termination of SQM’s lease in the Salar de Atacama, home to some of the world’s most productive lithium deposits.

The price of lithium, an essential ingredient for batteries used in electric vehicles, has risen sharply this year.

Tilk and Bitran declined to comment after the meeting at Corfo’s offices in Santiago.

Potash’s move to sell its 32 percent stake in SQM, a condition regulators in India and China have set for the Agrium merger, comes amid the Chilean miner’s ongoing arbitration with its home country’s government.

Talks to resolve the dispute ended at an impasse in October, leaving the fate of the company’s lease of lithium reserves to a judge.

Tilk said in October that Potash had received significant interest from potential buyers of the SQM stake.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Felipe Iturrieta; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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