Mexico has taken the first step in nationalising its lithium reserves, as President Manuel Lopez Obrador has declared this to be done via a presidential decree, which was signed yesterday (February 19).
Obrador has ordered the Energy Ministry to “take the actions necessary to carry out” the nationalisation of the country’s lithium reserves. The decree designated a mining zone of 907 square miles, dubbed Li-MX 1.
Speaking during an event in Sonora, where the decree was signed, Obrador said: “(Let’s make) the nation be the owner of this strategic mineral.”
The Mexico Daily Post quoted Obrador as saying, “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 US 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.”
At the same time, Obrador admitted that Mexico lacks the technology necessary for the extraction of lithium. Studies have estimated the country’s lithium reserves at up to 1.7 million tons.
Mexico lacking the necessary technology
To efficiently exploit lithium requires special technology, which Mexico does not have. In responding to this point, Obrador replied, “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.”
Last year, the Obrador administration set up a state-owned lithium mining company, following the announcement that lithium reserves would be nationalised, aiming to position itself favourably for the energy transition.
Experts were sceptical about the success of the venture because of the nature of Mexico’s lithium reserves, which are found mostly in clay, and there is no commercially available technology for extracting lithium from clay.