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Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining blasts mining law reform

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (Image by Gobierno Danilo Medina, Flickr).

The Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (Rema) blasted the contents of the legal reforms that nationalize the lithium industry alleging that the government of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador “decided to remain submissive to the market and to the extractive model with which the Mining Law was designed in 1992.”

On April 21, Mexico officially nationalized its lithium industry after the Senate approved by 87 votes in favour, 20 against and 16 abstentions the mining reform proposed by the Executive, which gives the state exclusive rights over the battery metal.

But in Rema’s view, the modifications to the law continue to support the “looting, dispossession of communities, the destruction of nature and the very serious damage to people’s health caused day after day by mining in Mexico.”

In a media statement, the organization criticized the fact that legislators did not question the ‘neo-extractivist’ model to obtain strategic minerals when they decided to modify who is allowed to exploit lithium and other metals.   

“We know the very serious social and environmental damages that the exploitation of this mineral has left in the world and for this reason, from Rema, we call on society to debate beyond the dichotomous and simplistic narratives about the public and the private imposed by political parties, companies and some media,” the press release reads.

The group explained that the reform creates an exception so that the exploration, exploitation, benefit and use of lithium, unlike most minerals, is the responsibility of the State. However, it points out that this does not imply the elimination of concessions already granted, nor the expropriation of the companies that are already operating. 

Rema said that what the reform does is open the possibility for a public and decentralized company created to manage these activities to partner with national or foreign capital.

“This is how both foreign companies that already have concessions, as well as national ones that are eager to join the loot, could end up hand-in-hand with the State in this activity,” the statement reads.

Rema’s document also expresses concern over the fate of 82 communities around the lithium deposits that are being explored by the Mexican Geological Survey. According to the Network, many of those areas already suffer from water scarcity. 

“What will happen to the communities where sufficient quantities of lithium are found and will be exploited? Surely, the government will deploy all of its force to move forward with these projects, regardless of what the local communities think, streamlining and/or bypassing the necessary permits,” the communiqué states.

“There is also a serious risk that expropriation processes are carried out, under the notion of public utility, or under the banner that it is for the benefit of the Mexican people and national energy sovereignty.”