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    NewsLatin AmericaLopez Obrador promises lithium in Sonora "for all Mexicans"

    Lopez Obrador promises lithium in Sonora “for all Mexicans”

    Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, President of Mexico, and Alfonso Durazo, Governor of Sonora, in Sonora, in February 2023.GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO

    Traveling through Sonora, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised those of that State that the Government “has the decision that lithium be the property of the nation, of all Mexicans.” Sonora has a reserve of the coveted mineral that the president has proposed to nationalize, in a gesture that intends to emulate other historic ones, such as the one General Cardenas had with oil. However, a decree published in the Official Gazette of the Nation maintains an ambiguity on this matter, because it does not completely rule out a possible private participation in the exploitation of lithium, even though it may have remained in the hands of the state company LitioMX. What needs to be determined, and has not yet been done, is how far that participation could go.

    In Sonora, Lopez Obrador has referred to one of the most important issues in trade with his northern partners, the United States and Canada, the manufacture of electric vehicles, for which batteries are needed, therefore lithium. “We will develop the exploration and production of this strategic mineral for electric cars, as is the purpose of the peoples and governments of North America. They are going to reconvert the entire automotive plant, that is why lithium is essential, and that is here, in Sonora, ”he said. The Mexican reserves, being important, do not reach the magnitude of those of Bolivia or Argentina. But its production would have to increase by 500% between now and 2050 if the demand for electric cars is to be properly met, according to data from the World Bank. In Mexico, the amount of “white gold” is estimated at 1.7 million tons, compared to 21 million in Bolivia. Despite this, it is the tenth country in the world in reserves.

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    The deposit discovered in 2019 aroused Mexico’s interest in acquiring this energy source, one of the most coveted in the world today. The clashes soon began with some Chinese company, which already had concessions for exploitation. As a result of all this, the Government considered the nationalization of lithium, and suspended new concessions, despite the fact that experts warned that the country did not yet have the technological capacity for exploration or production. In April of last year, Congress approved the mining reform, which empowered the State as the only one that can explore, exploit and produce lithium, and the governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo, has been appointed as head of the parastatal company, which will be led by Pablo Taddei. But last August’s decree has fine print: LitioMx, says the text, “may associate with other public and private institutions.” He does not mention the word companies or organizations, leaving it in an ambiguous expression that makes those interested in the sector think that there is an open door to private participation. To what extent or what institutions is not yet known.

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    Today in Sonora, accompanied by Durazo, the president spoke about the meeting held on Friday with the Arizona authorities and mentioned the US president, Joe Biden: “He has made the right decision that North America does not depend on the semiconductors that are needed for industrial development, which is still dependent on Asia. Now it is sought that they can be made here, in North America, and Arizona has been selected to produce those chips”, said Lopez Obrador.

    The president has emphasized this entire industry of electric vehicles and lithium exploitation, as a project that “will allow investment, employment and well-being” for Sonorans. The visit was also aimed at inaugurating a highway that will link communities that had been poorly communicated for a long time. Durazo said that since 1933, the inhabitants of Aguaprieta had been requesting this layout, which was never granted until now, with an investment of 1,571 million pesos. “It is a historic occasion that responds to a historic demand,” said the governor of Sonora.

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    But whoever expected more concreteness about the exploitation of lithium, has to settle for a promise that does not clarify how it will be carried out, but rather abounds in a political slogan that has not yet been resolved, that lithium “will be for all Mexicans”.


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