Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia. Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash.


Exhausted: How We Can Stop Lithium Mining from Depleting Water Resources, Draining Wetlands, and Harming Communities in South America

To mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, we must transition away from fossil fuels like petroleum and coal and toward clean energy generation and zero-emission transportation options. However, many green technologies, such as electric vehicles and renewable power plants, depend on lithium-ion batteries, which require lithium.

Lithium resources are concentrated in locations that have long histories of destructive social and environmental impacts caused by the mining sector. In South America, large amounts of lithium are mined from the brine underneath arid basins in the Puna de Atacama — a unique area spanning northern Chile, northwestern Argentina, and southwestern Bolivia. However, the brine evaporation technique used in this region contributes to the ecological damage of internationally recognized wetlands and protected areas, where water resources are already exhausted for local and Indigenous Peoples. Many of these communities have no say in — and receive little benefit from — the mining operations.

Lithium may play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but a climate-friendly future cannot come at the expense of destroying this biodiverse region or violating Indigenous rights. In this report, done in collaboration with the Plurinational Observatory of Andean Salt Flats (OPSAL), we highlight the voices of people whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by the lithium industry. We also propose a variety of ways in which lithium extraction’s detrimental effects — water depletion, drained wetlands, and community harm — can be avoided.

Exhausted: How We Can Stop Lithium Mining from Depleting Water Resources, Draining Wetlands, and Harming Communities in South America — Report (PDF)

Exhausted: How We Can Stop Lithium Mining from Depleting Water Resources, Draining Wetlands, and Harming Communities in South America — Report, En español (PDF)

Originally published on NRDC. By Amanda Maxwell & James Blair, Co-authored with: Ramón M. Balcázar and Javiera Barandiarán

Featured photo: Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia, by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.


You May Also Like


Nobody could have predicted that one day, red state right-to-work laws would attract electric vehicle manufacturers and help cement decarbonization into public policy.


In another recent article, I explored how Ford is taking the Tesla approach to EVs, not only with its recently announced adoption of Tesla’s...


The United States has all of the necessary factors for EV charging growth, and the result has been rapid deployment. The legislation passed by...

Clean Transport

Tesla recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new lithium refinery in Texas, during which CEO Elon Musk rolled up in a fully-outfitted Cybertruck....

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.