Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Saturday took another step towards nationalizing lithium, one of the most sought-after commodities in the energy transition. López Obrador signed a decree that lets “the nation be the owner of this strategic mineral,” following a reform that nationalizes lithium deposits in April last year.
“What we are doing now, keeping the proportions and in another time, 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,” the president said at an event in the Sonora municipality of Bacadéhuachi on Saturday.
This area holds a large concentration of the country’s lithium deposits. It was selected by the president as the site to launch the highly ambitious Sonora Plan, which aims to “promote the use of renewable energy and to use lithium from the region to encourage the change towards more environmentally friendly mobility schemes in the country.”
The decree orders the energy ministry to “take the actions necessary to carry out” the nationalization of the mineral. It also designates the creation of the first lithium mining reserve zone, called Li-MX 1, which will be made up of 234,855 hectares in Sonora.
Lithium, which is a key component of batteries, particularly electric vehicle batteries, is expected to be in high demand in the foreseeable future. The energy ministry said that Mexico is estimated to have the 10th largest reserves in only 23 countries where the mineral has been detected.
But, according to experts, it remains to be discovered whether there will be enough lithium and whether it will be economically profitable for Mexico to exploit the mineral.
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