What is lithium and what are the largest producers?
(CNN Spanish) – After approval by the Senate, the Mexican Congress reformed and added new provisions to the mining law aimed at nationalizing lithium; A mineral that thrives on being used primarily to make batteries for electric cars.
According to the published decree In the Official Gazette of the Federation, it is now recognized that “Lithium is a heritage of the nation and that its exploration, exploitation, utilization and utilization are reserved for the benefit of the people of Mexico”, as there are no concessions, licenses or contracts to be granted. or permits or permits to third parties.
But, what is lithium and how is Mexico pitted against other producers of this metal?
The largest producer of lithium
According to the published data According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Mexico has lithium reserves estimated at 1,700 tons, while the world’s largest reserves are located in Australia and in the so-called “lithium triangle”.
Four metallurgical processes in Australia, two brine processes each in Argentina and Chile, two brine processes and one mineral process each in China accounted for the majority of global lithium production. These are the ten countries with the largest reserves of lithium in the world:
Bolivia: 21 million tons
Argentina: 19 million tons
Chili pepper: 9.8 million tons
Australia: 7.3 million tons
China: 5.1 million tons
Congo: 3 million tons
Canada: 2.9 million tons
Germany: 2.7 million tons
Mexico: 1.7 million tons
Czech Republic: 1.3 million tons
The lithium dilemma in Mexico
If Mexico joins the global competition, Jaime Gutierrez Nunez, president of the Mexican Chamber of Mining (CAMIMEX), told CNN that “more than 25,000 direct jobs, and more than 300,000 indirect jobs, generate more foreign exchange for the country, and generate additional taxes of about 25,000 million.” Additional pesos per year.
However, unlike other countries such as Australia, Chile and Argentina, Mexico has lithium in clay or lithium in sediments, which according to Dr. Carlos Ríos Alonso, a chemist at the Autonomous University of Mexico, the extraction of lithium can have an impact on the environment.
“If I had mud, as in Sonora, I would have to dissolve that mud in water, I would have to suspend it and digest it with acid. This would generate thousands of cubic meters of toxic substances,” he said. . Rios Alonso.
On the other hand, Armando Ernesto Alatori Campos, president of the College of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico (CIMMGM), explained to CNN that Mexico currently has only one lithium deposit, which could eventually go into production.
Alatorre Campos explains that what is available in Mexico are local areas that indicate there is very little lithium. However, the CIMMGM director said that it would be necessary to carry out a series of work, exploration and research that would require 5 to 10 years, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to locate the second deposit.
Regarding the cost of extracting lithium deposits into clays, the Society of Mining Engineers and Geologists of Mexico, AC, stated in the document That these “can be quite large, but to extract the lithium it is necessary to calcine the clay to make the lithium and other elements water soluble, which implies a high cost”.
With information from Ray Rodriguez and Carmen Aristegui