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Cartels, Lithium, and the Devil in the details

28 November 2019

“Never let a disaster go to waste” is the mantra of neo-liberal politicians.  That the murder of nine dual national US-Mexican citizens, never mind that they have always been considered “shady” and outsiders in both cultures, has been both an admitted disaster (by the Mexican authorities and by the presumed assailants) but given the location, and the timing, it would be impossible not to note the “advantages” some see in not letting this disaster go to waste.

Translated from Zosíma Camacho, “¿Cuál es el interés de los gringos en Sonora: el narco o el litio?, Contralinea, 27 November 2019.

Will the United States soon remain on the sidelines when the world’s largest lithium deposit in the world is just a few kilometers from its southern border, coincidentally close to where the LeBaron clan women and children were recently slaughtered?

The indescribable crime of November 4 generated a worldwide notic and opened a rift between the Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the US government of Donald Trump.

Photo: Mining Technology

The latter precipitously proposed a war of extermination against the Mexican cartels. The Mexican government did not accept such a proposal, although it had to, while careful to reiterate its national sovereignty, accept United States participation in the investigation. It is necessary to remember that the members of the Mormon community to which the LeBarón belong have dual nationality: Mexican and American.

Thus, on Monday, November 11, a caravan of 50 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) SUVs, with an undetermined number of agents, arrived in Sonora to investigate the bloody attack. The Mexican government has stated that all procedures are carried out in the presence of, and with the consent of, the Mexican authorities. They also indicated that the FBI agents cannot carry weapons in Mexico.

Meanwhile, LeBarón family members went to Washington to speak with the US president. In an open letter, they have asked the United States to designate the Mexican drug cartels as “terrorists”. There are already proposals by Republicans in Congress to approve such a measure, and Trump himself announced that he is also cosidering such a move.

It should be noted that US legislation justifies the action of troops and agents, open and undercover, wherever there are terrorist organizations. And it does not consider it necessary to have the agreement of the governments of those countries.

On the other hand, lithium has become one of the most coveted minerals in the world. It is already the cause of one of the biggest disputes between the various economic (and military) powers. As is known, lithium is the main element for the manufacture of batteries and other cell phone accessories, computers, electric cars, airplanes, spacecraft, submarines … needed for a variety of scientific, technological, and military developments.

Whoever ensures the supply of this mineral will also ensure the victory of an arms, economic, scientific, and technological race between five main competitors: the United States and China at the top and in a second block near Russia, Israel and the United Kingdom.

The coup in Bolivia, where the world’s largest untapped reserves are likely to be, may be the result of this dispute, as the deposed president, Evo Morales has said.

On August 30, the powerful Mining Technology group revealed which are the 10 largest lithium mines in the world . In first place is the Sonora lithium project, a joint venture between of Bacanora Minerals (30%) and Cadence Minerals (70%) .

The mine is estimated to hold proven and probable reserves of 243.8Mt, containing 4.5Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). The bankable feasibility study for the project has been completed, which estimates a mine life of 19 years.

Sonora is proposed to be an open-pit operation being developed in two stages with the first stage having a production capacity of 17,500 tonnes per annum (tpa) of lithium carbonate. Stage two will double the production capacity to 35,000tpa.

The other nine lithium deposits in operation are in Thacker Pass (Humboldt, Nevada, United States), with proven and probable reserves of 179.4 million tons; Wodgina (Port Hedland, Western Australia), with 151.94; Pilgangoora (Pilbara, Western Australia), with 108.2; Earl Gray (Greenstone, Forestania, Holland, Western Australia), with 94.5; Greenbushes (Western Australia), with 86.4; Whabouchi (James Bay, Quebec, Canada), with 36.6 tons; Pilgangoora (Pilbara, Western Australia), with 34.2; Goulamina (Bougouni, Mali), with 31.2, and Arcadia (Harare, Zimbabwe), with 29.8 million tons.

The Mexican project is already well underway, having received concessions during the Peña Neito administration. Exploitation set to begin in 2020. But who will exploit it? As we said, the Sonora Lithium is located in the municipality of Bacadéhuachi, in the high mountains of Sonora, in the same region where the LeBarón were attacked and where drug traffickers have operated for decades. The region is largely controlled by the armed “Gente Nueva” gang’s “Los Salazar” faction, tied to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Bacanora Minerals, which will operate the mine is based in Canada, listed on the London Stock Exchange, its capital coming from the governments of Oman and China. This company has no other business or presence in any other part of the world.

On October 15, the Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium bought 29.99 percent of Bacanora Minerals’ shares and Wang Xiaoshen, vice president of Ganfeng, was immediately appointed director of the company.

It is estimated that the Sonora Lithium project, with 100,000 hectares, has a value of 1.253 bullion US dollars.

On the QT, and right under Uncle Sam’s nose, the Chinese are preparing to exploit the most important open-pit lithium deposit in the world. The massacre gives a pretext to Donald Trump to set foot in Sonoran territory. By declaring the cartels “terrorists” he can do both.

Maybe it’s not “poisonous oil” with which we receive messages from the devil, as the poet Ramón López Velarde* had it. Lithium may be attracting attracting a host of new demons.


El Niño Dios te escrituró un establo
y los veneros del petróleo el diablo.

The Son of God wrote from a stable,
with the devil’s poisonous oil.

From “La suave patria”At the time of its publication, 1921, the Mexican Revolution was just consolidating although the United States and Great Britain, both having major corporate investments in Mexican oil (Mexico being the second largest producer in the world at the time), were threatening interventions, and demanding special economic rights in the county. The oil fields until the 1930s, were being protected FROM the Mexican government by a mercenary army.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. norm permalink
    30 November 2019 5:50 am

    A comment not about politics, more about science and completely about prognostication: My guess is that in the next twenty years, most of our world’s mineral extraction will be from sea water. The deposits being developed currently for Lithium are all evaporite deposits. With solar and wind generation becoming more cost effective, down right cheap to be honest, we’ll see producers taking their production of minerals right out of seawater. The byproduct will be large amounts of fresh water. And it will not only be the traditional evaporate minerals that are extracted, gold, silver, iron, aluminum and titanium will come from the same soup.

    On politics: we seem to be going into a period similar to 1848 as far as worldwide upheaval.

  2. 1 December 2019 4:47 pm

    Even though nearly everyone refers to the Lebaron family as Mormon, the Mormon Church disavows them as an offshoot cult that has fled to Mexico to escape US laws against polygamy.

    • 1 December 2019 7:07 pm

      True enough (something I have written on before), but my translation was from an author who did not make the distinction.

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