Mexico in talks with mining companies about lithium

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president said Thursday the government is in talks to persuade companies that have started lithium mining projects in Mexico to give up their plans.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not say what the talks involved or whether the companies would be offered compensation. But he made it clear that whatever they might be allowed to mine — or help the government mine — they wouldn’t be permitted to produce lithium on their own.

In 2022, Mexico nationalized lithium mining and extraction, with a state-run company having exclusive rights to mine the metal used in electric car batteries and other devices.

López Obrador said that “one or two” companies had started projects, though they had not obtained all necessary permits, such as for water use of environmental impact statements.

He said the government is “seeking to reach an agreement with them” to accept the new framework. But he acknowledged the matter may end up in the courts.

“The lawyers are looking into it. We are going to talk to these companies, but the concessions have not been legalized,” the president said, vowing that “we are going to defend what belongs to the nation” if the firms take the case to court.

The Mexican government has no experience in mining lithium.

Only one lithium mine in Mexico, operated by a Chinese company in the northern state of Sonora, is anywhere close to starting production.

That operation, Bacanora Lithium, appears to be Mexico’s only viable private lithium mine and had been expected to start production in 2023. It is owned by Chinese lithium giant Ganfeng International.

At one time, the government had said the eight concessions for mining lithium already granted in Mexico would be respected as long as they were well on the way to producing the metal.

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