PRAGUE — The Czech government is looking to back out of a deal that could give an Australian company the right to mine a huge deposit of lithium, a key component in electric batteries.

Acting Prime Minister Andrej Babis says his industry and trade minister has been asked to find a way to make the memorandum of understanding, signed last year with European Metals Holdings, not legally binding.

Babis said Wednesday he would prefer a Czech state-run company to explore the local deposit.

Europe’s biggest deposit of lithium was recently found in the northwestern part of the Czech Republic. EMH has had an exclusive license to explore for the element and was seeking permission to mine.

It has been planning to open a mine at Cinovec, on the German border.

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