The green revolution will stall without Latin America’s lithium (The Economist – May 2,2023)

Over half of the world’s lithium, a metal used in batteries for electric vehicles, can be found in Latin America. The region also has two-fifths of its copper and a quarter of its nickel. Recently delegations from the United States and the European Union have flocked there partly to secure resources that will be needed in the energy transition and to diversify their supply away from China.

In March John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s climate tsar, visited the continent. German officials have scheduled at least three high-level meetings in South America this year. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, looks set to visit in the coming months.

But even as the outside world spies resources in Latin America, governments there are taking back control. On April 21st Gabriel Boric, Chile’s left-wing president, announced plans to create a state-owned company to produce lithium. If the legislation is passed later this year, private companies will have to form joint ventures in which the state firm has a majority stake.

Mr Boric is not alone in his penchant for green-resource nationalism. On May 1st Mexico’s Senate approved changes to the mining code which will reduce the length of concessions for private companies from 50 years to 30. Andrés López Manuel Obrador, Mexico’s populist president, also signed a decree in February to fast-track the nationalisation of the country’s lithium reserves.

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