Brno, Oct 10 (CTK) – The case of future lithium mining in the Krusne hory (Ore Mountains), north Bohemia, has been politicised by government ANO chairman Andrej Babis and the opposition Communists (KSCM), Industry and Trade Minister Jiri Havlicek (Social Democrats, CSSD) told reporters on Tuesday.

The junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) demand that the ANO and CSSD ministers immediately explain the matters concerning lithium mining, KDU-CSL chairman Pavel Belobradek said on Tuesday.

The government has not made any decision on lithium yet and all steps taken so far were in the power of the environment and industry and trade ministries, he said.

The Environment Ministry is headed by Richard Brabec (ANO).

Havlicek said Babis, who is now being prosecuted on suspicion of a subsidy fraud, needs to cover up his own issues before the October 20-21 general election. Babis lacks trustworthiness and nobody can believe him anymore, he added.

Havlicek said he wants to involve the state in the mining of lithium as much as possible and to ensure that the extracted ore is processed in the Czech Republic, ideally up to the final product. The DIAMO state company could be involved in the process, he said.

The deposit in Cinovec, north Bohemia, is estimated to have 3 percent of all global lithium reserves. Havlicek reiterated that according to Czech law, only the Czech Geomet firm, a daughter company of the Australian European Metal Holding (EMH) firm, is entitled to lithium mining in the Czech Republic.

“The memorandum we have signed with the Australian company is only declaratory, it gives possibilities, but does not impose any obligations. At the same time, I welcome the opportunity to discuss everything in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate,” Havlicek said.

The state’s withdrawal from the memorandum has been demanded by the opposition Communists (KSCM) and the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement.

KSCM chairman Vojtech Filip said on Tuesday that lithium does not belong to foreign hands and should remain under the state control.

Filip said the memorandum is legally irrelevant and goes counter to the Czech constitution. Someone is trying to rob 10 million of Czech citizens, he said.

He would not elaborate on the draft resolution the KSCM wants to submit to the lower house’s extraordinary session that is to discuss the issue on Monday.

SPD chairman Tomio Okamura, too, called for the government to revoke the memorandum decision and pass a bill assigning the lithium mining and procession to a state-run company.

Before the bill is passed, the government should not take any irreversible steps within this affair, except for scrapping the memorandum, Okamura said.

According to the SPD, the memorandum harms the Czech Republic’s interests and actually means a theft of the country’s raw materials, he added.

On Wednesday, the issue will be debated by the cabinet and the Senate at their regular meetings.

Later on Tuesday, Babis said he considers the Senate’s planned debate on the lithium mining memorandum “a clownery.”

At the session, senators for the CSSD, which dominates the upper house, will blame the memorandum signing on Minister Brabec, Babis said.

Earlier this year, Brabec’s Environment Ministry extended the permit for lithium prospecting.

“This…is unimportant. It is important that the [memorandum] has been signed by Havlicek, not by Brabec,” said Babis.

He called the memorandum a mega-theft that might lead to the Czech Republic losing billions of crowns in a lost arbitration.

Babis said Havlicek has to explain why he signed the memorandum with the Australian firm that even does not have the relevant licence, only the Geomet company has it.

Havlicek said the lithium processing chain has begun being formed in the Czech Republic. The use of lithium in batteries and for the development of electromobility is the best option that would bring new industrial opportunities for the Usti nad Labem Region, including those in science and development, he added.

In Europe, lithium is currently being mined only in Portugal on a small scale, where it is used for the ceramic industry. More than one third of the global production of lithium is being mined in Australia, followed by Chile.

The Cinovec deposit is now being surveyed geologically. Its prospecting is to be completed next year.

Pavel Kavina, director of the Department of Raw Materials Policy at the Industry and Trade Ministry, said the lithium mining is a good opportunity for the Czech Republic, but if it increases globally, then the lithium price could drop.