Mexico City. The concession to exploit the largest lithium deposit in Mexico, located in the state of Sonora, was granted during the government of Felipe Calderón for 100 years. It was received by an individual in 2010 and was later sold in 2013, already under the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, to the firm Bacanora Lithium, according to official information.
After the approval of the Mining Law last week, which reserves the ownership of this strategic resource for the State, the door is opened for a review that, in this case, involves a Chinese company that has rights over its exploitation, according to official data.
The largest lithium deposit in Mexico known to date and cataloged as the prospect with the largest mineral deposit in the world, will be exploited by foreign companies until the year 2115. However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has stated that with the approval of the reform to the Mining Law, revisions will be made to the concessions delivered to individuals.
Official data indicates that the Sonora Lithium Project, which belongs to the British Bacanora Lithium and soon to the Chinese Ganfeng Lithium, has seven mining concessions in the municipality of Bacadéhuachi, which have a scope of around 8,000 hectares. Most of these licenses are valid for 50 years, which means that they will expire in 2065.
However, the Mining Law establishes that any concession can be extended for another similar period, which means that, if requested, the exploitation of that deposit could be controlled by the Chinese company or by some other company that pays for it, given that the concessions can be transferred, until the year 2115.
However, that time would be insufficient to finish extracting the lithium that the Sonoran deposit is presumed to contain, since according to a feasibility study distributed among its investors, Ganfeng Lithium estimates that the lithium carbonate resources of that mine amount to 8.8 million tons, so it would take 250 years to completely deplete them.
More than expected
This figure exceeds that disclosed in 2019 by Mining Technology, which declared the Sonora deposit as the largest lithium deposit in the world, revealing that it contained 243 million tons of proven and probable reserves, which contained 4.5 million lithium carbonate. equivalent, that is, the mineral that can really be used to market it.
Estimates from Bacanora Lithium (current owner of the deposit), indicate that its plant in Sonora will initially have the capacity to process around 1.1 million tons of ore per year, to reach 2.2 million in a second stage. This will yield a production of 17,500 tons of lithium carbonate per year in the first phase (second half of 2024) and 35,000 in the second (no date specified).
Various specialists and organizations such as the Mexican Mining Chamber have pointed out the difficulties of the project, since the lithium contained in the deposit is found in clay and at the moment it is not possible to extract it in a viable way; however, Ganfeng has indicated that the one in Mexico is its most important project and has the capacity to produce the ore in a short time at a low cost.
The foregoing, emphasized Violeta Núñez, a researcher at the Metropolitan Autonomous University, gives the impression that said company already has the necessary technology, or is close to it, which is, perhaps, the reason why it decided to enter Mexico.
“The entry of this Asian company is due to the calculations it has about the wealth of lithium in Mexico. From the Sonora Lithium Project alone, Ganfeng indicates that it is one of the largest lithium resource projects in the world. Which shows the great potential of the country, although of course, the various conditions that have allowed intense extractivism in Mexico must also be added, including the current Mining Law, which gives absolute power to mining companies, ”he pointed out.