Mexico’s government may turn to developing its significant lithium deposits, but only after its oil industry is back on its feet, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Friday, Dec. 13.
That decision is mainly due to budget constraints that require the government to focus on recovering oil output before investing in other areas, AMLO told reporters at his daily morning press conference at the National Palace.
“In general, what we are doing is prioritizing, because we have many problems — big, serious problems — and we have to apply our resources to what we consider to be fundamental, not waste these resources or spread them too thin,” he said.
“In the energy sector, it was urgent to invest in the exploitation of oil fields to recover production.”
López Obrador has plans to increase oil output by at least 50 percent by the end of his term in 2024 by investing in the state-run oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) to make it more efficient and productive.
Pemex is the most indebted oil corporation in the world, with an outstanding debt of more than $111 billion.
This year, AMLO is hoping that Pemex’s production will reach 1.8 million barrels a day, still far from the 3.4 million barrels a day produced in 2004.
AMLO said that some government agencies have plans to develop lithium projects, but will have to carry them out with private investment, “because these projects need a budget.”
Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Victor Manuel Toledo said Thursday, Dec. 12, that government officials were consulting with experts about potentially exploiting lithium, a metal that will eventually become “the new oil.”
Several lithium fields have been discovered in Mexico, particularly in the central states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí
At least one of these fields expands over an area of about 37,000 hectares and could be mined for about 2.5 million tons of lithium.
The world’s largest known fields are located in Atacama, Chile, and Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, where there are more than 5.4 million tons of unmined lithium.
Lithium is the key power source for practically every electronic gadget and the main component for most cell phone and laptop batteries.
The international price for lithium carbonate is expected to triple over the course of the next five years, and its vast applications are quickly multiplying to include use in gaming consoles, solar panels, robots and electric vehicles.
By the year 2025, global demand for lithium is projected to exceed 470,000 tons annually.
But lithium mining would require heavy investment, and there are also serious environmental concerns as to how the lithium extraction process would effect the Mexican countryside.
In order to compete, Mexico would need to import technology and knowhow to better exploit its lithium reserves and maintain a competitive edge.