Bolivia Will Counsel Mexico on Lithium ExtractionBy Paloma Duran | Fri, 05/21/2021 - 11:14
President López Obrador has announced the development of a new framework and policy inspired by Bolivia's lithium industry experience However, Bolivia has not managed to boost its lithium production, as it faces many challenges, many related to technology.
The president announced that Mexican government officials have discussed with their Bolivian counterparts the possibility of receiving a diagnosis and proposals in regards to Mexico´s role for the extraction of lithium.
This initiative comes at a time where MORENA, announced its intentions to nationalize lithium production in Mexico. The party wants to introduce to the Senate an initiative that would nationalize the country's lithium production, arguing that the metal is essential for the country's development. If approved, the initiative would require legal reforms and this has raised questions about its viability.
López Obrador highlighted that Bolivia has significant experience in the exploitation of lithium and has instructed Minister of Economy, Tatiana Clotuhier to create a policy framework based on Bolivia´s lithium industry.
López Obrador explained he requested Bolivia's help because Lithium is considered a new resource for Mexico as well as extraction methodologies are also new. Bolivia used to be one of the countries with the highest lithium resource at 21 million tons. However, Mexico has recently discovered around 243 million tons of lithium in Sonora.
The Sonora Lithium project is the first massive lithium extraction project in the country and is scheduled to begin operations in 2023. The project will be supervised by Bacanora Lithium and Ganfeng Lithium, who recently announced its intentions to acquire 100 percent of the shares of Bacanora. The production of the US$420 million project is expected to be around 17,500 tons.
Due to the growing importance and demand for lithium, López Obrador stressed that one of his government´s main priorities is to identify the main opportunities and goals that lithium could bring to Mexico. The first agreement in this new alliance was considered when Bolivian president, Luis Arce visited Mexico in late March. López Obrador added that a proposal from Bolivia is expected soon.
During the government of Evo Morales, Bolivia sought to industrialize lithium through its own national financial means. At that time, Arce was Minister of Economy and was one of the strategists of the hydrocarbon nationalization policy. However, there were challenges in producing and using the resource, most of them related to outdated technology.
Following the arrival of Jeanine Áñez, a politician who served as Bolivia's interim president from 2019 to 2020, lithium nationalization and production continued to face challenges as it became further polarized. At present, lithium has not yet been fully promoted in Bolivia and in fact a contest has been launched to speed up its extraction. The tender has received many proposals from private companies and is expected to be completed shortly.