PRAGUE — The Czech government has canceled a deal that could have given an Australian company the right to mine a huge deposit of lithium, a key component in electric batteries.

Trade and Industry Minister Tomas Huner said Thursday he had informed the European Metals Holdings company he considered the deal invalid.

Huner had been asked by Acting Prime Minister Andrej Babis to find a way to make the memorandum of understanding, signed last year, not legally binding.

Babis said he preferred that a Czech state-run company to explore the local deposit.

Europe’s biggest lithium deposit was found recently in northwestern Czech Republic. EMH has had an exclusive license to explore for lithium and was seeking permission to open a mine in Cinovec, on the German border.