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Gov’t refuses to cancel lithium mining memorandum

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Prague, Oct 11 (CTK) – The Czech government rejected on Wednesday ANO’s proposal to annul the memorandum on lithium mining signed by Industry and Trade Minister Jiri Havlicek (Social Democrats (CSSD) with the Australian firm European Metals Holdings (EMH), Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD) has told reporters.

Zaoralek, who is also the CSSD election leader, told reporters that only ANO minister had voted for the rejection of the agreement.

The CSSD claims that the memorandum will enable the state to participate in the future profit from the mining.

Its critics, such the opposition Communists (KSCM) and ANO head Andrej Babis, are of the view that the Czech Republic faces an international arbitration due to the memorandum.

Zaoralek said this risk was, on the contrary, caused by the previous permits issued by the Environment Ministry headed by ANO’s Richard Brabec.

Zaoralek compared ANO’s stance on lithium to the process in which the state had lost the rights to coal mining.

During the talks on the future of the OKD mining company, ANO was pushing for the privatisation, while the CSSD was striving for the state Diamo to take charge of the company, Zaoralek said.

To prevent further similar disputes, the government took measures to strengthen the state rights to the mining of other raw materials, he added.

Babis sent a letter with questions casting doubts upon the CSSD’s stance on the issue to PM Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD), Deputy PM Pavel Belobradek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) and Havlicek on Wednesday.

Greenpeace energy campaign head Jan Rovensky said at a press conference on Wednesday that the state would gain only 0.66 percent of the lithium market price due to low mining fees.

The reason is a government decree from last year according to which the financial coverage is calculated from the pure metal and not lithium carbonate compound that is being commonly traded in world markets, he said.

Greenpeace estimates that the state would gain just 0.9 billion crowns for lithium mining in 21 years.

According to estimates, the Czech Republic has around 3 percent of all global lithium reserves, most of them in Cinovec in the Ore Mountains, north Bohemia, and a small deposit is in the Slavkovsky les protected landscape area, west Bohemia. The Czech Geomet firm, owned by the EMH, plans underground lithium mining. The company wants to open an old tin mine for the purpose.

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