According to the decision of the Mexican leader, LitioMx will manage the extraction of the so-called “white gold”. Author: Al Mayadeen
One who ignores the predatory and unpunished way in which for centuries – and still! – multinational companies from across the seas or land borders exploited the natural resources of Latin America and received the largest dividends, will not be able to fully understand the importance of the step taken a few years ago a week in Mexico.
By decreeing the nationalization of lithium and nearly 235,000 hectares of the state of Sonora, which constitute the largest mineral reserves in the country, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stamped the reform of the mining legislation, which last year declared this mineral a treasure of the nation and an exceptional resource. of the people of Mexico, and established that the exploration, exploitation, profit and use of lithium are “solely the responsibility of the State”.
Although somehow “blessed” by European investors’ renewed interest in its resources—one of the few “favorable” balances left to Latin America by the conflict over Ukraine and Western punitive measures against Russia—the region’s continued role as a net exporter of raw materials continues to cast it as a dependent .
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal), Latin American exports grew by 20 percent last year, “decreased” by rising hydrocarbon and food prices caused by the European conflict… the benefits, of course, producing countries.
However, even for them, the increase will not do the trick unless profits are used, for example, to finance changes in production structures and improve their efficiency or to advance the energy transition in search of clean energy. sources. .
You also have to think about industrialization, as Bolivia has proposed to do with its lithium, of course with China’s investment cooperation; but under the auspices of the Bolivian Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy (MHE) and the state Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos.
Lithium reserves in Sonora are in high demand by the automotive and telecommunications industries. Photo: Reuters
This requires capital, which can be appeased by the consistent exploitation of natural resources in the hands of nation-states.
Being more elemental and less ambitious, profits from the proper exploitation of natural resources may even become the first income for achieving social justice if it is invested in people.
This is not a new discussion. In 1938, Mexico struck itself by nationalizing its oil by order of General Lázaro Cárdenas: a revolutionary measure that the 2013 energy reform, according to the neoliberal vision, sidelined in favor of foreign private companies. This turnaround was to be reversed by the electricity reform proposed last April by López Obrador; but opposition in Congress prevented him from moving forward.
This is why the nationalization of lithium apparently now had to be regulated by presidential decree. In the legislature and before the election year, would all the benches approve of it?
But Mexico was not the only Latin American country concerned about protecting its natural resources. In 1971, Chile’s Salvador Allende nationalized copper, the country’s main wealth, with the help of which the state gained 100% control over the exploitation of large existing mineral deposits, as well as those that had yet to be discovered. However, fifty years later and in the context of the drafting of a new Constitution, there are proposals for the “renationalization” of copper …
It’s clear. Since the rise of the Pinochet dictatorship and neo-liberal governments to give way to “democracy”, only 30 percent of production is in the hands of Chile’s state-owned National Copper Corporation (Codelco). The rest is dominated by the domestic and foreign private sector, with global firms such as BHP, Glencore, Anglo American, Freeport McMoRan and Antofagasta present.
Another milestone in this matter came in 2006, when the famous nationalization of hydrocarbons in Bolivia and the renegotiation of contracts for the development of gas under the dictation of Evo Morales took place, a move that filled the treasury of the state and, therefore, changed the face. and the economy of the country, which has since been one of the richest and one of the largest and most sustained growth countries in Latin America, until that time appeared in international economic and financial reports as one of the poorest after Haiti.
Bolivia was followed by Ecuador. In a provision that was not clearly presented as a nationalization, chief executive Rafael Correa presented a new model of contracts to foreign oil companies operating in the country at the end of 2009, under which the state owned 100% of the crude oil. produced oil. and he contracted these firms for his exploitation, so he paid them for their services.
In accordance with this concept, the profit ratio, which had been profitable for mining companies until that moment, was up to 80 percent! production.
The Ecuadorian authorities of that time rightly argued that it was about “confirmation of the concept of sovereignty.”
Of course, there are enough arguments to applaud Mexico’s decision to reaffirm the state’s authority to develop lithium, the “leading” mineral in the world and with “life ahead” in the context of the search for clean and renewable energy and, in transition, current boom road transport without the use of fossil fuels.
By signing the decree, López Obrador pointed precisely to the need to now head towards the search for technologies that allow efficient exploration and exploitation, a task from which, apparently, private companies cannot be exempted, but always with the state in favor of the head.
Although there are voices from the opposition trying to downplay the decree by attributing to it an electoral character as López Obrador’s six-year term of office comes to an end, the truth is that the said intention to seek political gain can be itself. AMLO has confirmed that it will not seek re-election.
In any case, the first steps in operation have already been taken. Since last September, Litio para México (LitioMex), a decentralized government organization, was founded with the mission to explore, develop, capitalize on and use lithium located in the national territory, as well as to manage and control economic value chains. said lithium mineral. Although his mission has only just begun, it is stated that he is authorized to make contracts with other entities.
The wish, expressed by López Obrador, is that battery factories should also be set up, which would prevent Mexico from becoming the arena of mere extractivism and would enable it to sell the “finished product”.
Connoisseurs rank the country tenth on the list of countries where lithium deposits have been found, with two percent of the world’s known reserves.
The López Obrador government estimates that Sonora’s production could reach 17,500 tons of lithium carbonate per year from the end of this year. By 2026, production could double.
The numbers are not insignificant and, due to their financial scale, have an impact due to the degree of sovereignty they will contribute to economic development and therefore the maintenance of Mexico’s independence.
Source: Juventud Rebelde