MEXICO CITY – Mexico is set to become a leading lithium and potash producer following the discovery of a massive deposit of those minerals in central Mexico, the head of the Piero Sutti mining company told Efe.
Martin Sutti said Thursday that the almost 40,000-hectare (154-sq. mile) deposit – the first to be located in Mexico and possibly one of the world’s largest – could contain some 80 million tons of lithium- and potash-bearing earth with a concentration of 750 grams (26 ounces) of lithium and 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of potash per ton.
Sutti said Canadian and U.S. experts have confirmed the presence of the minerals at the deposit and that his company already has a concession to develop it.
The mining executive said he is now in talks with Chinese, Korean, Australian and Canadian companies interested in partnering with Piero Sutti to extract the minerals, which are essential components in the electronics and chemical industries.
He added that a large portion of the capital for exploiting the deposit will come from those firms and that the initial investment could exceed $200 million.
“This is a world-class discovery. We have a very large area and we’ve found sizable amounts of lithium per ton,” Sutti said.
He added that Mexico has suffered from its lack of lithium and potash production and that this has led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign currency reserves to import the minerals.
Sutti said there has been a 500 percent increase in demand for lithium – which is used in the electronics industry, mainly in cell phones, car batteries and medicine – over the past three years.
He added that that demand is expected to grow another 500 percent between 2009 and 2015 due to plans by large automakers such as Toyota and Nissan to produce new, totally electric vehicles.
“An electric automobile uses a quantity of lithium equivalent to 700 cell phones. It is not as contaminating and is the lightest metal in nature,” the executive said.
He said that if the potential lithium and potash content of the deposit is confirmed “we could be among the world’s top five potash producers.”
He added that the investments will be a catalyst for development in that impoverished, semi-desert zone that straddles the states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi and includes the towns of Villa de Cos, Panfilo Natera, Salinas and Villa de Ramos.
Sutti noted that the United States, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Portugal and Zimbabwe are the world’s leading lithium producers.
Chile is currently the world’s No. 1 producer of that mineral, accounting for just over 50 percent of global production, followed by Australia with around 20 percent.
Potash, which is mainly used in fertilizer production, is another mineral for which there has been a huge spike in demand; it is currently priced on world markets at roughly $700 a ton.
Piero Sutti was founded in 1918 in Zacatecas and has specialized in the extraction of silver and other minerals. EFE