Mexican Lithium Will Serve US Automotive Supply Chain
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Mexican Lithium Will Serve US Automotive Supply Chain

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Fernando Mares By Fernando Mares | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Wed, 02/08/2023 - 15:35

President López Obrador said the lithium produced in Mexico would be used for the US microchip and automotive industries. There is no exact date for when lithium production would start in Mexico. However, authorities announced battery and microchip factories are set to be built in both Mexico and the US. 

According to López Obrador, lithium, as well as oil, belongs to the nation. Even if the government partners with private companies, the mineral will remain a national asset. “Of course, we can honor contracts [with companies] to extract and process it, as long as the nation owns the lithium,” he added. 

López Obrador stressed that the government is working on developing appropriate regulation to avoid handing over the possession of the mineral to private players, as well as to ensure that it is also processed in Mexico. He touted the Sonora Plan will benefit the Sonoran people in this regard. 

The president continued that both the US and Mexico could benefit from the Sonora Plan. He mentioned that Arizona already has an automotive factory and is expected to build a microchip factory, which according to López Obrador could be powered by clean energy produced in Puerto Peñasco’s solar park. 

Similarly, the US-based car manufacturer Tesla is planning to open a factory in Mexico. According to Mexico’s government, the company is considering two options: Nuevo Leon and Hidalgo, the latter location near the recently-inaugurated Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA).

López Obrador has insisted on the nation's ownership of lithium as a strategic mineral, like what oil meant for the Lázaro Cardenas administration. However, during the North American Leaders’ Summit 2023, the Mexican government agreed to share information about the lithium reserves with trade partners, which according to some local media contradicts López Obrador’s more nationalist stance. 

Nonetheless, the president said that it does not contradict the government’s position, as nationalizing an asset does not necessarily mean hiding information for trade partners. He said that it is possible to work together while respecting sovereignty.

On Jan 20, 2023, MBN reported that López Obrador announced the government would start granting concessions for lithium exploitation on Feb. 19, 2023. However, the only company that would be able to apply would be the state-owned Litio Para México. “We will go to La Venta, Sonora, where the to-be-granted mine will be delivered to a company that belongs to the nation,” López Obrador said at the time. 

Photo by:   Umberto

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