The Dark Side of Resource Sovereignty: How Nationalization Efforts May Disrupt Global Lithium Availability

Lithium Nationalization and critical shortage as EV's go mainstream

Lithium nationalization refers to the process of transferring the ownership and control of lithium resources, production, and distribution to the government. Lithium is a highly valuable metal used in the production of batteries, and it has become increasingly important as the demand for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems grows.

Professor John Meirsheimer said on numerous occasions that “nationalism is the most powerful political ideology on the planet.” Other scholars went as far as to call nationalism a religion. It is therefore not hard to understand why even in democratic countries, people sit back when governments nationalize their resources. 

The risk with resource nationalization, whether fueled by populism or not, is that it is not containable to countries with a low human development index. It is indeed also present in a number of G20 and high GDP per capita countries. It may be pitched as “better for the people”, but in reality, can cause major disruptions which threatens ESG initiatives and acceleration towards a greener future. 

Latin American Lithium Nationalization: Dominoes Falling in the Great Lithium Fiesta

Several countries with significant lithium reserves, including Bolivia and Argentina, have pursued nationalization policies in recent years. In 2018, Bolivia’s government nationalized the Colquiri and La Emilia lithium plants, which had previously been operated by a joint venture between the state-owned Bolivian Mining Corporation and a private firm. The move was intended to increase government control over the country’s lithium resources and secure a greater share of the profits for the Bolivian people.

Similarly, in 2020, Argentina’s government announced plans to nationalize its lithium industry in order to increase government revenue and promote domestic production. The government proposed to establish a new state-owned company to oversee the development of the country’s lithium resources, which are mainly concentrated in the northwestern province of Jujuy.

Thus in 2023, Mexico could not resist to follow the status quo in Latin America: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed a decree transferring the responsibility for lithium reserves to the energy ministry, following the nationalization of lithium deposits in April last year. At an event in Sonora, Lopez Obrador formalized the decree, instructing the energy ministry to execute the necessary actions for the nationalization process. The decree also designates 234,855 hectares (907 square miles) in Sonora as a mining area called Li-MX 1.

Then there is “quasi” nationalization in the country which boasts the world’s most abundant lithium reserves: Chile has long maintained a significant presence in the lithium sector. In a bid to consolidate control over the industry and boost the government’s profit share, President Sebastián Piñera’s administration introduced new legislation in 2018. This regulatory change granted the state-run mining corporation, Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (CODELCO), permission to investigate and extract the nation’s lithium reserves, further solidifying the government’s influence in the market. Finally in 2023, the new president Gabriel Boric indicated that he would move towards full nationalization. 

However, nationalization of lithium resources can also have drawbacks, including the potential for reduced efficiency, bureaucracy, and political interference in the industry. It can also discourage foreign investment, which may be necessary for the development of the industry. Therefore, the decision to nationalize lithium resources should be based on careful consideration of the potential benefits and drawbacks, as well as the specific circumstances and priorities of the country involved.

Conflicts + Nationalization Could Equal Major Disruption

Nations such as Sudan and Afghanistan face the dual threat of internal proxy conflicts and full-scale wars involving neighboring countries. Meanwhile, Bolivia is more susceptible to internal unrest, as evidenced by recent events. These precarious conflict situations ultimately limit the potential for expanding lithium production. 

The above, coupled with the rising trend in nationalism and consequent resource nationalization, is not a good position to be in just as the world braces itself for peak demand in both EV and residential solar adoption. 

What Is At Stake for The US?

When it comes to the nationalization of lithium resources in various countries, it is not merely a matter of minding one’s own business. That is because it poses significant risks for the United States. 

One critical concern is the potential political shift of European nations towards China, as countries with nationalized resources increasingly partner with the Asian powerhouse. Such a realignment could weaken US influence in Europe and disrupt strategic alliances. 

Additionally, there is the risk of the US automaker industry following in Tesla’s footsteps and relocating a substantial portion of its production to Europe and China. This shift could result in job losses, reduced economic growth, and a weakened competitive advantage for the US in the rapidly evolving electric vehicle and green energy markets.

What Is At Stake for The World?

There is also a scenario of harmony between the US, EU and China, with persisting supply issues. Even in such a case, the potential scarcity of lithium could jeopardize ambitious objectives such as the US’s aim for all car sales by 2030 to be electric vehicles (EVs) and the EU’s plan to prohibit internal combustion engines by 2035, due to an insufficient supply of batteries. The International Energy Agency estimates that annual global EV sales must hit 47 million by 2030 to align transport emissions with its “sustainable development scenario.” Clearly, significant efforts are still required to meet these targets.

Exploring US Lithium No Longer Optional – Does Lithium Clay Hold The Key?

As global lithium demand surges and Latin American countries increasingly nationalize their lithium resources, the exploration of lithium sources within the United States has become a strategic imperative. The race to secure stable lithium supplies has turned the spotlight on lithium clay deposits, which may hold the key to America’s energy independence and competitiveness in the green energy sector. By developing and harnessing lithium clay resources, the US can reduce its reliance on foreign lithium, outmaneuver China’s growing influence in the market, and maintain a robust supply chain for its burgeoning electric vehicle and battery industries. In this context, lithium clay exploration is no longer optional; it is a vital component of America’s path towards a sustainable, self-sufficient energy future.

Watch These Lithium Stocks 

Selecting the top lithium stock may not be a simple endeavor. A number of companies exist as per the following examples. Monitor these potential frontrunners in the lithium industry, as they could be set to make progress: American Lithium (LIACF), US Critical Metals (USCMF), Lithium Americas (LAC), Century Development, and Ioneer (INR) are all remarkable candidates that could present investors with an opportunity to profit from the growing lithium market. With the increasing demand for lithium, companies like these are well-situated to support the expansion of this crucial resource.


Investors might be weighing up “Lithium as the new white gold” against Gold, Cryptocurrency and other commodities – particularly at a time of hyperinflation. That is valid albeit another matter altogether. 

In a nutshell, lithium nationalization is rocking the boat, and the quest for resource sovereignty could put a serious dent in our green future. The US and the world must tackle this head-on, taking a good, hard look at the consequences on their strategic goals and ESG initiatives. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and dig into alternative resources, like lithium clay deposits.

As political alliances and the green energy landscape shift like a game of Tetris, the lithium industry’s future teeters on the edge. Striking a balance between resource sovereignty and sustainable lithium production is like walking a tightrope – a high-wire act demanding innovation, cooperation, and a healthy dose of humor to keep our spirits up in the face of these challenges.


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