Mexico signs decree to nationalise lithium deposits
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has now officially signed a decree to nationalise the lithium mined in the country. The material vital for the production of electric vehicle batteries may now only be extracted and sold by state agencies.
Only last August, the Mexican government founded Litio para México, a state-owned company for the extraction and marketing of the light metal. Litio para Mexico, which translates as “Lithium for Mexico”, is to operate independently of the energy ministry and can now begin.
“What we are doing now … is to nationalize lithium so that it cannot be exploited by foreigners from Russia, China or the United States,” said President Obrador at an event in Sonora where he signed the decree that orders the energy ministry to begin the nationalisation process.
Sonora is a federal state in the northwest of Mexico, bordering the USA. The decree declares 2,349 square kilometres (907 square miles) as a mining zone under the name of Li-MX 1. Another dozen or so foreign companies currently have active mining concessions with the intention of developing potential lithium deposits in Mexico – as yet no lithium has been extracted. The Preseident says that all of these will be reviewed. The economy ministry published a decree on Saturday saying that “the rights and obligations of the holders of mining concessions in force that are within the lithium mining reserve zone remain safe,” but also that “no mining activity related to lithium” can be carried out within the reserve without giving further details.
The Mexican government’s approach is to ensure that it has a majority stake in any future joint venture. Pablio Taddei, the cheif executive of the state-run company for lithium production told Reuters that while Mexico was ammenable to partnerships, the government would ensure it retained a majority stake in any future joint venture.
For the battery industry and the electric mobility sector, lithium extraction in Mexico would be potentially interesting against the backdrop of the new US regulations: since Mexico, Canada and the US are linked via the NAFTA free trade agreement, battery raw materials mined in Mexico and Canada would also meet the new US requirements for the EV tax credit.
According to Reuters, Elon Musk was due to meet President Obrador on Friday just passed, while Tesla will soon confirm it will locate its new plant in Mexico.
reuters.com, presidente.gob (in Spanish)