Mexico, which nationalized lithium resources in April, has created a state-run company to mine the metal, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in a decree issued in the national gazette Tuesday afternoon.
The company will be called Litio para Mexico, or Lithium for Mexico, the decree read, and will begin operations within the next six months.
Lopez Obrador vowed to keep lithium resources in the state’s hands after suffering a blow earlier this year with the rejection of an electricity reform proposal, which would have given more preferences to Mexico’s state-run energy company.
Lithium is a key component in electric vehicle batteries.
Litio para Mexico’s new head will be proposed by the energy minister and appointed by the president, according to the decree.
The country’s energy minister, as well as the finance minister, economy minister, interior minister and environment minister will sit on the company’s board.
Mexico does not yet have commercial lithium production, though a handful of foreign companies hold contracts to explore potential lithium deposits. Lopez Obrador had said in April that all contracts would be reviewed.
The decree said that Litio para Mexico may work with either public or private institutions to mine for what has become known as “white gold.”
Business groups blasted the nationalization of lithium after it was announced, while some have said it could trigger a constitutional dispute.
(By Kylie Madry; Editing by Leslie Adler)