La Paz: Indian manufacturer Jindal Steel and Power has said it had filed a claim against Bolivia in the International Court of Arbitration over a financial dispute about a USD 2.1 billion mining project.

In 2007, Jindal scored a 40-year contract to mine the southeastern Mutun site near the Brazilian border, one of the richest iron deposits in the world, with estimated total reserves of 40 billion tonnes, according to officials.

La Paz has called the plan one of the country's biggest industrial projects. It is due to be fully operational in 2014.

But Jindal and the government of Evo Morales are currently at loggerheads over investments. The Indian group had been due to pay USD 600 million over two years, but only paid about two percent of that amount, prompting Bolivia to seize USD 18 million in guarantees.

Jindal, meanwhile, claims that Bolivia has not upheld its part of the contract, under which the government must ensure the supply of natural gas to operate the mining site – about four to six million cubic meters per day.

Jindal stressed that its arbitration claim "exclusively concerns the guarantees and does not affect the continuance or validity of the contract."

Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcio denounced Jindal's move as ‘wrong and unfriendly.’
   
(Agencies)