Head of Mexico City government compares lithium nationalization to that of oil 84 years ago

Claudia Sheinbaum, head of the government of Mexico City. (Image by the CDMX government, Twitter).

Following the nationalization of the lithium industry approved by the country’s Senate on April 21, Claudia Sheinbaum, head of the government of Mexico City, said during a public speech over the weekend that the decision is comparable to the nationalization of the oil industry approved during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, 84 years ago. 

“What did President Lázaro Cárdenas do in 1938? He nationalized oil. For what? So that oil was used for the well-being of the Mexican people and so that foreign companies would not take it away,” Sheinbaum said. “Well, what President López Obrador did is similar to what General Lázaro Cárdenas did: he gave lithium back to Mexicans.”

The government official said that prior to the approval of the new law, lithium deposits could be privatized and that many foreign mining companies would take them and give very little in return. 

Sheinbaum also said that the opposition MPs who voted against the initiative betrayed their country, while those who voted for it are “nationalists committed to their country.”

The new law elevates lithium to the category of “strategic mineral,” declaring the exploration, exploitation, and use of lithium to be the exclusive right of the state. It also includes a clause allowing the state to take charge of “other minerals declared strategic” by Mexico.

Since the bill was passed, 90 days started running for the executive to create a new, decentralized body to deal with all lithium-related matters, which means that no new concessions, permits or contracts will be granted.

When announcing the approval, López Obrador said his administration will review all lithium contracts, which casts a shadow of doubt over projects already being developed in the country, including the one held by Bacanora Lithium (LON: BCN) in the country’s northwest.