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Mining Project Sonora Lithium in Sonora, Mexico

In the municipality of Bacadéhuachi in Sonora, it is intended to open the first Lithium Mine in Mexico and one of the largest worldwide, which has awakened debates and criticism at the national level on the exploitation of lithium in Mexico.

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As the discourse on global warming and climate crisis progresses, new horizons are raised from capital, in this permanent desire to adapt to the new realities without losing an apex of their commercial and extractive strength. In this context, the energy transition was born and each day as a new component capable of resolving CO2 emissions without detrimenting from the standards of progress and development raised from modernity. A new element, although it does not come alone, is lithium, key to process batteries capable of storing energy and transit, say, hydrocarbons to clean energy.

As a good process of impulse to this new and potential energy source and consequently, of the Most High Economic Value, as of 2019 in Mexico, the British company Bacanora Lithium announced the Sonora Lithium project, located in the municipality of Bacadehuachi in the Sierra Madre Western In the state of Sonora, and immediately the country was placed between the main bastions of lithium banks in the world. Although it does not exist for now an open conflict and strong opposition to the local level, the announcement of this first lithium exploitation project in Mexico has aroused a debate at the national level and has been criticized from organizations such as the Mexican network of affectation by the Mining (RAMA) and Mining Watch Canada for its geopolitical and speculative consequences, the future socio-environmental impacts that will generate and the false concept of "green mining" associated with the promotion of mining mineral projects declared "essential" for the energy transition process .

has been considered as the mining project with higher reserves proven worldwide with 243.8 million tons [1] [2]. However, after that first announcement, there were contrary statements by the Mexican authorities (Secretariat of Economy and Mexican Geological Service), making doubts about abundance and underpinning the presence of minor reserves in this project. According to the sources, there are great differences in the lithium reserves estimates of this project and from Mexico in general: in accordance with the companies involved in this project (Gangfeng Lithium and Bacanora Lithium), Mexico is respectively in the fourth and sixth place In terms of lithium reserves, while for the US Geological Survey (USGS) is in the tenth and for the Mexican geological service (SGM) in the thirteenth place [3].

This project has a total area of ​​100 thousand ha, consisting of 9 current concessions (15 thousand ha in total) and one in process of 87 thousand ha, the latter a political, business and commercial challenge that must overcome the Current Presidency of the Republic who has denied the delivery of new mining concessions so far from his mandate (2018-2021). As it is a lithium deposit in clays, its extraction will be through the open-pit technique with a projected tag of 129 ha and a processing plant.

Extraction It is provided in two stages; The first begins in this 2021 with an investment of 450 million dollars and an estimated production of 17 thousand tons per year, while the second, scheduled for 2023, will do so with an investment 350 million dollars and an estimated production of 35 thousand tons Annuals The integrated plant has been designed to initially process 1.1 million tons of mineral per year, during stage 1, and subsequently increase at about 2.2 mt per year in stage 2, producing 17,500 tons per year (TPA) and 35,000 TPA Lithium carbonate, respectively. The design of the plant also includes a circuit to produce up to 30,000 TPA product K2SO4 / SOP through a series of evaporation and precipitation stages [1] [4].

However, outside this numeralia, based on the knowledge of the mining extraction process, this project continues with the exploration stage, so the figures remain under the construction of the inventory of mining assets and the difference Among the measured, indicated and inferred resources, although they undoubtedly already show values ​​of mineral resources, as they advance in the classification of the proven and probable mineral reserves. The other stage already cites project development. However, both processes go behind the strong commercial speculation that has been generated with this project as such that, even without extracting a single gram of lithium, this company has received profits from about 170 million dollars [9].

Enterprises involved and geopolitical dispute

Bacanora Lithium, headquartered in the United Kingdom, is the parent company promoting the project. The other with a preponderant role in this project is the Chinese company Gangfeng Lithium, one of the largest generators of lithium products at the global level with 10 battery factories in China and investments in 8 lithium extraction mining projects distributed in 5 countries ( Mexico, China, Ireland, Australia and Argentina) [5]. Gangfeng Lithium is the majority shareholder of the company Bacanora Lithium, spent 17.4% of the shares at 28.9%. In addition, Ganfeng made an initial investment of 22.5% in the shares of the Sonora Lithium Ltd., subsidiary of Bacanora Lithium for the Project in Sonora, which increased to 50% in February 2021 [4] [6]. The Sonora Lithium project now has 2 owners by means of a Joint Venture: Bacanora Lithium and Gangfeng Lithium. In May of 2021 Ganfeng made an offer to acquire all the actions that still does not have in the company Bacanora Lithium at a price of 0.95 dollars per share to stay as the sole owner of the project in Sonora [7] [8]. This offer is now subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities, and the approval of the advocacy advice of both companies. This offer fired 26% The actions of Bacanora Lithium is the stock exchange in London and to specify, the market value of Bacanora Lithium would be approximately 365 million dollars, which represents an increase of 226 million dollars comparing with The market value of the company a year ago [9].

As mentioned, this increase in market value without the company has started with the operation and Removal of lithium in Sonora, is a sample of the great speculation existing with the lithium market worldwide. The progressive increase in the participation of the company Ganfeng in this project and its current willingness to stay as a single owner, also shows the strategic of the Sonora project in the global lithium business. Of course it also draws attention the role of Gangfeng company who reproduces in the project in Sonora a strategy that has developed in Argentina progressively acquiring a majority participation in companies that develop Marian Lithium and Olroz-Cauchari projects, which have generated conflicts with the local population [10] [11] [12].

Respect for the lithium destination place that is intended to extract in the Sonora project , Gangfeng has the right to 50% of the production of lithium carbonate that will be extracted in phase 1, and 75% lithium of phase 2. In turn, the Chinese company signed an agreement in 2018 with the Tesla US company To ensure the lithium supply for its operations at the battery and cars plant in Nevada (USA), in partnership with Panasonic company [4]. For the other half of the lithium carbonate that will be extracted in phase 1 there is an agreement with the Japanese Hanwa company, a minority shareholder (4%) of the company Bacanora Lithium. Lithium carbonate aims to be exported by means of Guaymas port located within the same sound entity.

Undoubtedly, this project is framed within the global geopolitical dispute for lithium control and other critical minerals related to the global process called "energy transition". It is no coincidence that, in addition to the Asian markets that this project aims to supply in a first phase, there are also the interests of one of the other lithium-level consumers: the United States of America, whose geographical location is very strategic In the context of lithium projects in Mexico (the Sonora Lithium project is located less than 200 km from the US border. UU). Currently the US UU They are totally dependent on external markets for their imports of lithium carbonate, such as the importation of lithium and industrialized, which is not less before the force of the automotive market of that nation and it is enough to point out that, At 2020, 90% of their lithium imports came from Argentina and Chile. There is no doubt that Mexico's lithium is already very relevant to the immediate future of the US. UU., Which is already incorporated strongly in the new multilateral agreements signed with this country recently. The new commercial agreement (T-MEC) signed between the governments of Mexico, the United States and Canada, notes that lithium batteries are an "essential" component for the automotive industry, and determines a period of 3 years to reach 75% of regional content. These measures to increase the consumption of lithium products extracted in the region, added to the fact that world production is currently concentrated in Australia and South America, put more pressure on the deposits of this mineral located in Mexico and Canada, for mentioning only some , in which several companies are trying to install themselves to supply lithium for the regional automotive industry [4].

The energy transition and the false speech of green mining and the TRUE IMPACTS OF THE SONORA LITHIUM

This project has been announced as a key to reducing the effects of climate change. The Bacanora company declared respect; "The materials that will facilitate the green transition, such as lithium, have become the center of attention. The energy transition arrived to stay, and our sound project has an important role" [13]. The issue is fully aligned with the declaration of the former owner of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), who considered the lithium with the "new oil" [14], as well as the EXEndecretary of mining of Mining The Secretariat of Economy, declaring that; "Without mining there will be no energy transition" and that "the mining sector is strategic for the non-only economic development of the country, but social, democratic and even on urgent topics on climate change" [15].

Commercial speculation, the discourse of the energy transition, the statements of antagonistic politicians such as the protection of the environment and the precursor of the mining are only a part of the current debate that exists on the Lithium at the national level, although many of the arguments lack criteria and specific data that is worth highlighting, as it happens with Senator Armina when he talks about a possible nationalization of lithium and the same time reculas to raise a different way so that The Mexican government seeks better to promote private public association processes (APP) for the exploitation of lithium [17]. Declarations go and come every day and, in that context, tensions of different M are being created Atices and colors between investors, companies, politicians, academia and resistance, however, at the end of the day the only rule that will qualify lithium destiny is within the free trade agreements that Mexico has with several countries , in particular with the United Kingdom, but not only, where the company Bacanora Lithium has its headquarters, and with whom Mexico is negotiated a new bilateral trade agreement [16]. It is important not to forget that there is a concession that covers 87 thousand hectares circumscribed to this lithium project, which has not yet been authorized by the Mexican government and hence the importance of looking if the current president will hold the commercial pressure of a natural good which is at the top of the global commercial energy transition.

Faced with this pattern of misinformation, speculation and new world business project, the Mexican network of affected by mining (RAMA) has criticized virtually all positions and declarations that aim to encourage lithium extraction in Mexico, among other reasons why it is It continues to promote mining extractivism without questioning its impacts: "Your proposals for" energy transition "do not mean any change of model and repeat the same colonial structures and accumulation of capital that the mining industry reproduces in the world. How can one talk about a transition, when what is sought is an accelerated increase in mining extraction, for increased profits for their companies that only generate dispossession and impacts on peoples and communities? It is the same capitalist model, which you now want to paint green "[18].

It is important to analyze the details of the Sonora Lithium project, not just your Specific meaning, but also on the background that the extractive model has imposed worldwide from regulatory, commercial and environmental frameworks prepared to facilitate the displacement and forced displacement accompanied by environmental and severe and irreversible health damage. With lithium again it becomes evident that, the fact of extracting a mineral defined as essential for the process called "energy transition" and, which has been determined from corporate logic, does not return to the process or extraction model as Something "sustainable green or friendly with nature", but quite the opposite, because it leads to new levels of destruction because of a finite input at a huge consumption.

For anyone's novelty the harmful of mining exploitation with open-pit technique, because there is no country in the world that has not been a floor of the devastation and pollution that causes every day, as well as when terrible accidents as the rupture of Jales prey. Derived from this are also well known also the partner environmental impacts that generate, as well as in its further expression we know what the displacement and forced displacement means.

The Documentation that exists on the subject demonstrates that the impacts of the extractive model do not depend on the type of mineral extracted but of the devastating process of extraction and processing of the minerals associated with open-pit mines, although also to those of tumbe and filling, although these Latest in different dimensions. In addition to completely destroying and definitively the surface of 129 ha in grazing because of the preparation and excavation of the Tagus, which is the site where lithium is located, it is also projected that this project will generate 131 million tons of waste During the 20 years of production, and 25 million tons of wet tailings that will be deposited over 209 ha [19] [20]. The residues and tailings are a mixture of various heavy and toxic metals that are associated with lithium, which being exposed to oxygen, at ambient temperature and moisture, create a condition of toxicity in the air, in the sediment and In the water of superficial and underground currents that are classified as causal environmental liabilities of diverse and serious damage to health and the environment irreversibly.

This project aims to use 1.41 million m3 of water per year, representing 77% of the total groundwater concessioned in the Bacadéhuachi aquifer where it is located. According to the data from the Drought Monitor of the National Meteorological Service (SMN), the municipality of Bacadéhuachi has been found since December 2020 to date (June 2021) in a continuous situation of extreme drought. This situation of grave water stress will obviously be aggravated both by the hoarding of water provided for the mine, as well as by the disappearance of water veneers during the development of the Tajo, as well as the contamination of water currents parallel to the project. It is not less than there are already concerns about the local population that is mainly dedicated to livestock and agriculture, who already suffer the ravages of current droughts as affirmed by one of them; "Can not do more than buy supplements, concentrates and mineralized salts, because the grass that start from the ground is not enough" [21].

In relation to water, the concern of a potential spill in the mine is also added, as well as the contamination of water sources that could generate at the regional level as it already happened in 2014 after the toxic pouring of the Buenavista mine of the Copper of the group Mexico that flowed into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers. The Yaqui tribe has expressed concern about the possible contamination of water sources and water stress that could generate this project [23].

for now does not exist or not It is still identifiable, a process of strong opposition by the local population of both the ranch of the window and the ejido of Ejido Bacadéhuachi where the mine is intended to develop. The situation of poverty and lack of jobs, aggravated by the current drought, also generates expectations and contradictions that this mining project could bring jobs for the local population. However, many inhabitants have declared not having any clear information for the respect for the payments that the company will do to use its lands, on the possible jobs for the local population or on the negative impacts that this project will generate people from those communities: "But that payment has not been very clear that is going to be done, for us it was uncomfortable, we would have preferred that they had passed away elsewhere, but we are not against: more than anything, because the people lacks Sources of employment ..., we have no idea how well I could leave "; "For one, it is a hope in parts, we say, because they are going to take poison, they are going to harm us here"; "As one does not know, it is ignorant, if it is going to be poison or it is going to benefit both Bacadéhuachi" [21]. These declarations show the level of disinformation and consequently, of the great asymmetry between the transnational interests and the local communities that are exposed to be deceived with the well-known phallings of progress and mining development in Mexico, when in reality the companies and the government Taking advantage of the socioeconomic situation so complex that communities live, they will completely omit the serious socio-environmental impacts that will generate.

Another aspect that usually explains the low current local mobilization against of the project is the climate of extreme violence and territorial control existing in the region and in particular in the State of Sonora, a leading mining state but equal leader in foreclosures of nature, and it is enough to remember the recent murders in the ejido of El Ejido Bajío [24], as well as several members of the Yaqui people, as well as dozens of criminalization actions against advocates of the territory [2 5] [26].

is known that in the project area there is a strong presence of organized crime that already operates with control synergies created by the other mining projects Located near this new location [27], which makes the resistance processes that live in harassment and permanent submission makes more complex, although from the Government, the cheerful accounts of the millions of dollars ophal the reality of violence in which the population; "Progress and development is first and there can not be opponents to the future."

The remotal alert that the increase in violence will undoubtedly be, another of the negative impacts that will generate this mining project, since this type of enclaves are always associated at different levels of contovernure with different legal and illegal armed groups [28].

like As with any type of project related to the extractive model, this draft worldwide will also generate dispossession, forced displacement and damage to health and the environment in the area in general. These impacts are indisrocyable of the mining extractive model that the proposal for corporate energy transition currently intends to promote globally.

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mining Project Sonora Lithium in Sonora, Mexico
State or province:Sonora
Location of conflict:Bacadéhuachi.
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Lithium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

This project is constituted of 9 current concessions (15 thousand HA in total) and one in process (87 thousand ha). Two of the concessions (the window, the window 1) belong 100% to Minera Sonora Borax (MSB), subsidiary of Bacanora Lithium, while the concessions El Sauz, Sauz 1, Sauz 2, Fleur and Fleur 1 belong to your Subsidiary Mexilit (70% Bacanora and 30% Cadence, Investment Signature and Mining Sector Development). The concessions of San Gabriel and Buenavista are owned by the Megalit Subsidiary (70% Bacanora and 30% Cadence), and the Megalit Processing Award is Property of Sonora Borax Minera (MSB).

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Project area:100,000.
Level of Investment for the conflictive project800,000,000.
Type of populationRural
Company names or state enterprises:Bacanora Lithium from United Kingdom - Empresa co-dueña del proyecto
Ganfeng Lithium Co. (GFL) from China - Empresa co-dueña del proyecto y tiene derechos del 50% de la producción del carbonato de litio que se extraerá en la fase 1, y el 75% de litio de la fase 2
Hanwa Co., LTD from Japan - Tiene derecho al 50% de la producción del carbonato de litio que se extraerá en la fase 1
Relevant government actors:- Economy Secretariat (SE)
- Mexican Geological Service (SGM)
- Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Mexican network of affected by mining (RAFA)
Mining Watch Canada.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[1] Bacanora Lithium ; Sonora Lithium Project
[click to view]

[5] Ganfeng Litium ; Ganfeng Global Layout;
[click to view]

[6] Bacanora Lithium ; Corporate presentation June 2021
[click to view]

[7] Bacanora Lithium ; Possible Offer for Bacanora Lithium plc ; 6 de mayo del 2021
[click to view]

[click to view]

[20] SEMARNAT ;Manifestación de Impacto Ambiental proyecto Sonora Lithium ; Mayo del 2017
[click to view]

[2] Mining Technology ; Top ten biggest lithium mines in the world ; 30 de agosto del 2019
[click to view]

[3] V. Nuñez en RompeViento ; Litio en México: ¿guerra por las cifras?;
[click to view]

[4] GeoComunes ; REMA ; Mining Watch Canadá ; El Litio: La nueva disputa comercial dinamizada por el falso mercado verde ; Enero del 2021
[click to view]

[8] La Jornada ; Empresa china comprará Bacanora; va tras yacimiento de litio en Sonora ; 7 de mayo del 2021
[click to view]

[9] La Jornada ; La minera inglesa Bacanora ha ganado 170 mdd sin extraer un gramo de litio ; 13 junio del 2021
[click to view]

[10] BNAméricas ; Cronología del negocio del litio de Ganfeng en Latinoamérica ; 7 de mayo del 2021
[click to view]

[11] EJAtlas ; Explotación de Litio en el Salar de Olaroz-Cauchari, Argentina
[click to view]

[12] Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos ; ¿Una transición justa? La explotación de litio en México
[click to view]

[13] La Jornada ; Prevé Bacanora que el precio del litio se duplique en seis años ; 15 de junio del 2021
[click to view]

[14] El Financiero ; El litio es el nuevo petróleo y México tiene grandes yacimientos: Semarnat ; 12 de diciembre del 2019
[click to view]

[15] Secretaría de Economía ; Sin minería no habría transición energética: Francisco Quiroga ; 28 de octubre del 2019
[click to view]

[16] La PolticaOnline ; Megaproyecto de litio en Sonora tensiona la negociación del TLC con Reino Unido ; 28 de junio del 2021
[click to view]

[17] Americaonline ; México abandona plan de nacionalizar el litio y está listo para dar la bienvenida a la inversión privada ; 2 de junio del 2021
[click to view]

[18] Comunicado REMA (en sitio web de Otros Mondos) ; El litio y la Falsa Transición Energética ; 29 de septiembre del 2020
[click to view]

[21] CONAGUA ;Monitor de Sequía en México
[click to view]

[22] Proyecto Puente ; Bacadéhuachi, Sonora: En espera de la mina del litio, enfrenta sequía y falta de empleo ; 24 de marzo del 2021
[click to view]

[23]DW ; La pelea por los yacimientos de agua será aún más brutal ; 11 de febrero del 2020
[click to view]

[click to view]

[25]El País; La desaparición de 10 miembros de la comunidad yaqui enciende las alarmas en el sur de Sonora; 21 de julio del 2021
[click to view]

[26] Washington Post; Hay una guerra por los recursos naturales en Sonora; 15 de junio del 2021
[click to view]

[27] Dialogo Chino; La mina más grande de litio en México es una espada de doble filo; 14 de febrero del 2020
[click to view]

[28] La Coperacha; Yacimientos de litio en México ponen a debate la transición energética: REMA; 28 de febrero del 2020
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Rompeviento TV; Litio: México, un territorio estratégico; 16 de febrero del 2021
[click to view]

Rompeviento TV; El litio mexicano: guerra de Cifras - MOMENTUM; 17 de junio del 2021
[click to view]

Mining Watch Canadá; Presentación informe GeoComunes/REMA/MWC: "El Litio: la nueva disputa comercial dinamizada por el falso mercado verde"
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update13/08/2021
Conflict ID:5586
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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