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Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has ordered the energy ministry to “take the actions necessary to carry out" the nationalization of the country’s lithium reserves, Reuters has reported, citing a decree the Mexican president signed on Sunday.
"(Let's make) the nation be the owner of this strategic mineral," Obrador said during an event in Sonora, where the abovementioned decree designated an area of 907 square miles as a mining zone, dubbed Li-MX 1.
“What we are doing now (…) is to nationalize lithium so that it cannot be exploited by foreigners, neither from Russia, nor from China, nor from the United States. Oil and lithium belong to the nation, they belong to the people of Mexico, to you, to all those who live in this region of Sonora, to all Mexicans,” Obrador said, as quoted by the Mexico Daily Post.
At the same time, Obrador admitted that Mexico lacks the technology necessary for the extraction of lithium. According to Reuters, studies have estimated the country’s lithium reserves at up to 1.7 million tons. Tapping these, however, requires special technology, which Mexico does not have.
“Now comes the technological part, because the lithium here is, according to the technicians, in clay (…) so it requires special treatment, but the researchers are already doing studies to find a way to extract it, process it, that is, to separate it from the clay and already have this raw material, which is basic for making batteries,” the Mexican president said.
The Obrador government last year set up a state-owned lithium mining company, following the announcement that lithium reserves will be nationalized, aiming to position itself favorably for the energy transition.
Experts, however, were skeptical about the success of the venture because of the nature of Mexico’s lithium reserves: its lithium is found mostly in clay and there is no commercially available technology for extracting lithium from clay.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com