Miguel Angel Lucero Olivas
President of the Mining Commission
Senate of the Republic

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Lithium: The Mexican Narrative

By Miguel Ángel Lucero | Tue, 05/10/2022 - 09:00

Lithium has a value that is reflected in demand, which is growing in scale, since it is used worldwide in the production of ion batteries, mobile devices, laptops, digital cameras and electric vehicles, among others. Its use is diverse it is even necessary for the elaboration of medicines.

Technological progress determines the demand for lithium, which is why it is a strategic raw material and clear rules need to be established in the use of its value-generating chain.

The panorama of this mineral presents us with the following:

• According to World Energy Trade, the world production of extracted lithium reached a record in 2021 of 100,000 tons (excluding the US), an increase of 21 percent compared to 2020 (82,500 tons), according to preliminary data published by the US Geological Survey.

• Data from Trading Economics shows the value of lithium as of April 5, 2022, is US$78,066 per ton, while as of Dec. 31, 2020, it was US$7,145. The value of lithium grew 11 times in just 16 months.

• According to data from the United States Geological Statistics Center (USGS), Mexico ranks 10th in the world for lithium reserves.

Below are the current concessions for lithium in Mexico:

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https://www.diputados.gob.mx/sedia/sia/se/SAE-ASS-03-22.pdf

The increasing economic value and relevance of lithium is unabated. In Mexico, most of the concessions are in a state of exploration and are also inactive. Given this, we have a duty to improve efforts to reach the next steps in the exploitation of this mineral.

On Sunday, April 18, the Federal Executive sent an initiative to ensure the exclusive use of lithium for Mexicans. It won approval in the Chamber of Deputies on April 19, with 298 votes in favor, zero against and 197 abstentions.

In the Senate, since its reception by the Mining Commission, we have complied with the parliamentary procedure, and the subsequent vote in plenary resulted in approval, with 75 votes in favor and 45 votes against.

It appears that it took a total of less than 72 hours to approve the initiative; however, this issue had already been presented and studied in both Houses of Congress, because let us not forget that various initiatives were presented before it, among them the electricity reform from the Federal Executive and the proposal of Sen. Alejandro Armenta Mier.

"Forum 16: Sovereign Energy Transition and lithium as a strategic area," was also held and broadcast on Feb. 9, 2022, to strengthen our commitment to an open parliament. Different studies were also published from a number of areas, both technical and specialized in investigation, in both Chambers. Likewise, the Senate of the Republic organized the webinar, "Lithium regulation: opportunities and challenges in mining activity," held on May 27, 2021.

This reform will have subsequent effects for the construction of a model totally managed by the state. This transition is not yet complete, since the decentralized public body that will oversee this and other strategic minerals is missing.

This event is a first step, where the primordial interests of 129 million Mexican women and men were highlighted before that of others. In this change, efforts will be joined by all necessary sectors, especially the citizenry, to place Mexico among the leading countries in the industrialization of this mineral.

In what was approved by Congress, it is very important to highlight the change to article 10 of the Mining Law. Therein lies the importance of this transition, since it condenses the evolution of this state in the protection and guaranteeing of human rights. It promotes the example of an industry model that respects the environment, its culture and traditions.

In addition to the above, the benefits of this reform put us closer to taking advantage of commercialization and technology transfer.

In a democracy it is necessary to have different and diverse ways of doing thing. On Tuesday, the method that won allows the opportunity to build from the available elements and to acquire new ones for the major benefit of the people of Mexico.

I also want to express my commitment and effort to carry out a complete review of this law in the not too distant future, so that we can provide an update that is balanced for all participating sectors.

This experience leaves me with the hope of a new opportunity in a market with an industry that has historical elements in our territory that tells a story made by Mexican eyes and hands, that defines us before the world.

We will continue fighting to improve and protect the future of our young people and children.