Sea Dust, pt 3, or Lithium Nirvana

The optimism surrounding the potential of electric vehicles to mitigate resource extraction does overlook a few key factors that extend beyond the obvious economic and cultural hurdles. One interesting factor is resources needed; Yes, resources for electric and hybrid vehicles. Such as the need for massive amounts of lithium carbonate. Lithium is the mineral of choice for batteries, and is found in most laptops and mobile phones. It is central to the next generation of hybrid and electric cars and this success will depend upon 5 times the current estimates of lithium worldwide to support the emerging industry.

Many are turning to Bolivia for clues. With over half of the world's (untapped) lithium reserves found in Bolivia, in the the Uyuni salt plain, the attention is obvious. Uyuni is the largest salt playa in the world, covering nearly 9,000 square kilometers. The salar playas are believed to have been a closed basin for the last 10000 years. Receiving about 300mm/year of rainfall has created a repeated wet/dry cycle and a thick but smooth evaporite of mostly halite.  Besides its fascinating geomorphological history, the Uyuni is also simply a stunning endless mirror landscape of surficial saline waters.

Recently, the southern Uyuni has been found to contain major lithium deposits, originating from the drainage area of the Rio Grande de Lipez. And with this discoverey comes attention from major companies and developers, such as Mitsubishi, to mine this landscape. Currently Bolivia depends predominantly upon the export of natural gas for economic viability. Pressure to determine the future of this landscape is mounting with economic and environmental concerns complex and contradictory...

related:
Sea Dust, pt 1
Sea Dust, pt 2

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