Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday said the country’s lithium concessions are being reviewed, after China’s Ganfeng 002460.SZ last month indicated that its Mexican lithium concessions were being canceled.
Lopez Obrador formally nationalized Mexico’s lithium reserves earlier this year and in August, Ganfeng said Mexico’s mining authorities had issued a notice to its local subsidiaries indicating nine of its concessions had been terminated.
“We are reviewing them because mining concessions were initially handed over for the exploitation of gold, silver and copper, not lithium,” he said. “We have decided that lithium belongs to the nation because it’s a strategic mineral.”
Lopez Obrador added there was a legal review related to Ganfeng’s acquisition of its lithium concessions in the northern state of Sonora from the previous holder.
The head of Mexico’s mining chamber on Wednesday said he did not believe the government could legally cancel the Ganfeng concessions.
Ganfeng said one of the canceled concessions concerned its open-pit project in Sonora, which it estimated contains some 8.82 million metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent.
Mexico has been looking to profit from soaring demand for the white metal used in batteries and electric vehicles. However, much of its lithium reserves are trapped in clay deposits, making extraction difficult.
Mexico does not currently produce any lithium.
(By Dave Graham; Editing by Jan Harvey)