López Obrador Grants Lithium Concessions to Energy Ministry
President López Obrador signed a decree to hand over all of Mexico's lithium concessions to the Ministry of Energy (SENER). The authorities stressed that although the private sector will be allowed to participate, Mexico will benefit the most.
During an event in Bacadehuachi, Sonora, where the country’s largest lithium reserve is located, López Obrador signed the decree for the Ministry of Energy to carry out the nationalization of the new mineral. The decree appointed 234,855ha in seven Sonora municipalities as mining reserve zones.
López Obrador compared the nationalization of lithium to the expropriation of oil, indicating that he seeks to protect the mineral from outside involvement. "What we are doing now is nationalizing lithium so that it cannot be exploited by foreigners, neither Russia, China or the US. Oil and lithium belong to the nation, to the people of Mexico, to all those who live in this region of Sonora," said the president.
López Obrador emphasized that despite precautionary measures against the decree, it has already been approved by Congress. Sonora Governor Alfonso Durazo highlighted that private companies can partner with LitioMx to participate in the lithium industry even though the state-owned government will hold the majority share.
"We will guarantee that the integral chain of lithium exploitation remains in our state and in our country for the benefit Mexicans. We are open to the association of national and foreign companies in this matter. However, we want to safeguard Mexico’s rights so that lithium deposits are a pillar of national development and work for the well-being of the communities and territories where lithium is found," said Durazo.
The government’s approach to lithium has been met with skepticism by the private sector and industry experts, who questioned the government's ability to boost commercial lithium production. Alberto Vazquez, Partner, VHG Servicios Legales, told MBN that the reform was irrelevant since the mineral already belongs to Mexico: “You cannot nationalize what is already nationalized in some way.” Moreover, Vázquez explained that creating a state lithium company would lead to a similar outcome as with PEMEX or CFE, where the leading companies do not have the investment and technology to properly develop the industry.
In terms of potential, Mexico’s reserves look promising. Bolivia ranks first in terms of the largest lithium reserves with 21 million t, followed by Argentina with 17 million t, Chile with 9 million t, Australia with 6.3 million t, China with 4.5 million t, Congo with 3 million t, Germany with 2.5 million t and in ninth place, Canada and Mexico with 1.7 million t each, reported the US Geological Survey in 2022.