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Mexican Official Calls to Nationalize Lithium Mines

Some say the proposal would scare off foreign investment.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s largest union group is criticizing calls by the environment secretary to nationalize the country’s newly-discovered lithium deposits, considered among the largest in the world.

The Mexican Workers Federation, known as the CTM, claimed the nationalization proposal would scare off foreign investment. The CTM represents some mine workers.

“There is no room for ideological fanaticism. Mining in our country is protected by the law, because it is enormously useful for industry, from food processing to autos to telecommunications,” the union federation said in a statement.

Lithium is a key ingredient in the growing market for electric car batteries.

A joint project by Chinese and English companies are developing what may become the largest lithium mine in the world in the northern Mexico state of Sonora. But Environment Secretary Victor Toledo said last week the government should control lithium mining, and then perhaps name a private or government-owned company to run it.

On June 17, Toledo said in an online panel discussion that “we are pushing for, and we hope to achieve, the government nationalization lithium resources.”

“The English and Chinese companies are coming already,” Toledo said. “Lithium should be nationalized and the government should create a company, which could be private or public, but the government should control the use of lithium.”

The Sonora lithium project is being developed by Sonora Lithium, a joint venture of U.K.-based Bacanora Minerals and China's Ganfeng Lithium.

The company says the mine is estimated to hold proven and probable reserves of 4.5 million tons of lithium carbonate-equivalent.

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