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Devices draining the desert

Lithium extraction for the batteries in our computers, telephones and electric cars is using many of the scarce water resources that allow indigenous peoples and animals to inhabit the world’s driest desert.
Lithium extraction for the batteries in our computers, telephones and electric cars is using many of the scarce water resources that allow indigenous peoples and animals to inhabit the world’s driest desert.
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Published in collaboration with
Sophia Boddenberg // Photo: Pablo Rojas Madariaga
Redaktør: Jesper Hyhne |
A Danwatch investigation

Devices draining the desert

1. December 2019
Sophia Boddenberg // Photo: Pablo Rojas Madariaga
Published in collaboration with
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Lithium is essential for the batteries in our phones, our computers and the skyrocketing number of electric vehicles that are often seen as playing a key role in the green energy transition

With half the world’s lithium reserves, Chile has been labelled ‘The Saudi Arabia of Lithium’. Almost all its exports are currently being extracted from its Atacama Desert, the world’s driest place

But extracting Atacama’s lithium requires pumping up massive amounts of the scarce water resources that has allowed indigenous peoples and animals to survive for thousands of years in the desert. And according to researchers, the extraction has already caused lasting harm to the area’s fragile ecosystems

In the Atacama and elsewhere in Chile, indigenous communities are now protesting current and future lithium extraction plans

Many communities claim they have never been consulted prior to the extraction projects, though Chilean authorities are obliged to do so according to international conventions ratified by the Chilean state

Danwatch can reveal that companies such as Samsung, Panasonic, Apple, Tesla and BMW get batteries from companies that use Chilean lithium

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