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Arguments re-erupt over Czech lithium reserves

Staff Writer | February 8, 2018
Arguments about how to exploit a lucrative and strategic Czech raw material, lithium, have flared up again.
lithium reserves
Mining   For the first time many became aware
Outgoing prime minister Andrej Babiš is demanding that a memorandum with an Australian-based mining company is scrapped and the Czech state play a role.

Lithium captured the consciousness of most Czechs when it exploded as an issue in last October’s parliamentary elections.

For the first time many became aware that the Czech Republic has the biggest lithium reserves in Europe with the price for the metal soaring as it is sought for batteries in electric cars and storage facilities for renewable energy.

ANO leader Andrej Babiš accused his Social Democrat rivals of paving the way for Czechs to be ‘robbed’ by the Australian-based company European Metals Limited. It was an accusation that probably struck home given the past Czech scandals surrounding the privatisation of coal mining companies.

The ANO leader was joined in the outcry by the communist party and by Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD) of Tomio Okamura.

A debate was convened in parliament which eventually called for the memorandum, which outlined cooperation between the company and state over extraction and processing, to be torn up.

Newly installed minister for industry and trade, Tomáš Hüner, appeared to patch things up in a personal meeting with bosses of the Australian company in Prague last week when the two sides proposed to sign an addendum to the previous memorandum. The exact format was not revealed.