While the federal government remains optimistic about the potential benefits of exploiting lithium, industry insiders consider this optimism unfounded since the extraction of the mineral in the country does not have a basis in scientific evidence.
According to Luis Vázquez, President, the Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico (AIMMGM), Mexico has lithium but still lacks a method to extract it. He said that nationalization is a moot point since lithium, like other minerals, is by law a national asset. Furthermore, he pointed out that there is no scientific method available that proves it is possible to extract lithium in Mexico’s distinctive context. “All the production sites [the government] talks about are in Bolivia, Argentina and other countries. All those deposits are salt deposits, this means that lithium is located in lagoons that are dried to extract the mineral,” Vázquez added.
Vázquez mentioned that Sonora’s copious low-mineral grade lithium deposits are found in clay, in lower amounts than other metals. “The lithium is concentrated in extremely low grades that do not even report 1g/t of lithium. Clay is a material that does not drop minerals and consumes a lot of reagents. For this reason, no research tells us how to separate it,” he added.
Vázquez said that he hopes that the private sector would help the government since the state does not have the knowledge nor the resources to exploit the mineral.
On Nov. 11, 2022, MBN reported that the state-lithium company declared that extracting lithium from clay deposits is possible. What is more, the company said it is economically feasible since it calculated that separating lithium from clay would cost US$4,000/t. “[People] say that no technology in the world will allow lithium extraction from clay deposits… we must end this propagandistic myth that says Sonora’s lithium is not as profitable as any other lithium deposit in the world,” the Governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo said in October.
On Nov. 16, 2022, President López Obrador said that the government will launch a tender for US and Canadian companies to participate in the country’s lithium infrastructure and added he is waiting for the response from US and Canadian authorities.