Mexico aims to enter a partnership with “lithium triangle” countries Argentina, Bolivia and Chile in an effort to share expertise in developing lithium deposits.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says the goal “is to create an association with the aim of helping each other.”
The move to collaborate comes after the president has recently overseen the nationalisation of the country’s lithium industry, meaning similar to Bolivia, the government has taken control of the rights to the metal.
Argentinian and Chilean governments have also expressed their interest in the partnership, despite the lithium mining industry being controlled privately in these countries.
President Lopez Obrador says introducing a lithium association with the four countries will enable the sharing of expertise to fully exploit the battery mineral.
“We’re going to work. We’re already doing so together on development, on exploration, processing, new technologies,” he said.
Lithium triangle continuing to grow
According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) data, the lithium triangle, consisting of South-American countries Argentina, Bolivia and Chile contains nearly 56% of the world’s resources of lithium metal.
Argentina has plans to expand its lithium output. Until now development has been slower in the country as a result of higher tax rates, rising inflation and currency controls.
Investments of up to US$4.2 billion into Argentina’s lithium industry over the next five years are expected and would more than double production. This would elevate Argentina to become the third or fourth largest lithium producing nation worldwide.
Chile holds the third largest lithium reserves in the world and is the second biggest producer.
As for Bolivia, its production of lithium is minimal despite having more resources than any other country, according to the USGS.
Mexico is home to a number of lithium deposits, which could allow the country to become a major player in the global industry.
The Mexican Government recently announced reforms to nationalise lithium, putting control of the metal in the government’s hands.
Although having potential deposits, Mexico has no commercial lithium production.
Ganfeng is “one of the world’s leading lithium manufacturers” and controls Mexico’s most advanced project via subsidiary Bacanora Lithium.
But the government has confirmed going forward it will review all active contracts to exploit lithium in the country. This includes eight lithium exploration concessions that have already been granted.
President Lopez Obrador’s spokesperson Jesus Ramirez tweeted saying lithium “will be the exclusive property of the state and for the benefit of the people. Our resources will be safe, and the energy transition will be guaranteed.”
Demand for lithium rising
In efforts to promote electric vehicles and other e-modes of transport across the globe, the demand for lithium is escalating, calling on carmakers and battery companies to ramp up production.
Commonly referred to as “white gold”, lithium is pivotal for new technologies, as it is used in lithium-ion batteries which power electric vehicles and other devices.
Currently, the majority of the world’s lithium output is contracted in long term deals with chemical producers, battery makers and electric vehicle makers, encouraging countries throughout the world to potentially invest in new ways towards lithium production.
Mexico is among the world’s 10 largest countries in terms of known lithium resources, with USGS estimating it hosts 1.7Mt of lithium.
President Lopez Obrador hopes the partnership to share lithium development expertise will help bring the country in line with other lithium triangle members in terms of production.