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Mexico in talks with mining companies for lithium projects

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president said Thursday that 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 consisted of or whether compensation would be offered to the companies. But he made it clear that whatever they are allowed to mine — or help the government mine — they will not be allowed to produce lithium on their own.

In 2022, Mexico nationalized lithium mining and extraction, deciding that a state company would have exclusive rights to extract the metal used in electric car batteries and other devices.

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

The president added that the government is seeking to reach an agreement with them to accept the new framework. But he acknowledged that the matter may end up in court.

“The lawyers are seeing it, and they are going to talk to these companies, but the concession is not legalized. We are going to defend what belongs to the nation. What we are looking for is to reach an agreement with them in this new framework”, indicated the president.

The Mexican government has no experience in lithium mining.

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

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

At one point, the government had said that the eight lithium mining concessions already granted in Mexico would be honored as long as they were on their way to producing the metal.

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