The problem with nationalising the minerals sector

Is that when you\’ve got another mineral that you need foreign capital and technology to extract, there\’s no one willing to offer you the technology and capital you need:

\”But there is a problem. Bolivia\’s socialist government has a habit of clashing with foreign multinationals in other sectors and has not clinched a deal – and, according to some, may never seal one – with the investors needed to extract significant quantities of lithium.

Foreign companies are afraid to deal with a government that confiscates assets and rips up contracts, said Carlos Alberto López, a former energy minister and consultant with Cambridge Energy Research Associates. \”Bolivia\’s ­ideological face does not square with business and commercial realities. I doubt lithium\’s potential will be realised in the short or medium term.\” Pessimists fear a fiasco: carmakers lacking batteries to power electric vehicles and Bolivia, one of the continent\’s poorest countries, losing an opportunity to develop.\”

8 comments on “The problem with nationalising the minerals sector

  1. NY Times, 2004:
    ‘Mr. López, who was vice minister for energy when the fields were discovered, now lobbies for the foreign oil and gas companies in Bolivia. ‘

    Lopez’s government was a representative of the traditional powerholders who were ejected when democracy, in whatever cracked form, reared its ugly head and swept Morales to power.

    Read the rest of the article – as reliable as it probably isn’t. Seems to me the Bolivian government is negotiating to tax worldwide lithium users in order for the mining companies to invest in new industries in Bolivia.

    Sounds potentially clever to me – especially when you might control a major share of the market – and Lopez is just a bitter old hired flim flam man whistling apocalyptic music to brain dead hacks.

    The guardian ones, Tim – not you.

  2. Might it be better for the world if the USA did use its forces to grab mineral resources, instead of madcap attempts to conquer anyone it finds annoying?

  3. I’m with Evo on this one, if only because it provides what should be a textbook example of how the laws of the bullshit we edify with the name of economics are supposed to work.

    Let the price of lithium rise so that the cost of producing car batteries becomes prohibitive under the current model (doesn’t matter a toss to me – don’t drive any more). We will then see whether ‘The Market’ is so efficient that it can produce a lithium-less car battery. Put the stopwatch on.

    Avanti Popolo!

  4. Martin,

    “We will then see whether ‘The Market’ is so efficient that it can produce a lithium-less car battery. Put the stopwatch on. ”

    Umm…. that seems to be
    “let’s artificially, i.e. utterly against what would happen if free markets did their stuff, raise the price of something we want, so that when free markets allow an alternative to be developed, we can say “Look! it’s isn’t as cheap as the one we’ve prevented you buying!”

    Am I missing where the market is at fault here?

  5. “We will then see whether ‘The Market’ is so efficient that it can produce a lithium-less car battery. Put the stopwatch on.”

    That won’t demonstrate much. If it does, then such a battery may have been produced under any system, and we won’t know that it was thanks to the market. If it doesn’t, perhaps it isn’t possible to develop such a battery under any system. No matter what the outcome, we can’t draw any useful conclusion so it is not a good experiment.

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