A Pinch of Salt for Bolivia's Economy
The 4,000-square-mile Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia, is the world’s largest salt flat and unexploited lithium reserve.
Demand for lithium – which is used in pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, and smartphone and electric car batteries – has surged in the past year, ahead of an anticipated boom in electric cars, and is projected to outstrip supply by 2023, reports The Guardian.
Supplying lithium to develop the electric car industry will help to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and also help the economy of one of the South America’s poorest countries. But there are concerns about the environmental impact of the lithium extraction process:
The first problem is increasing truck traffic and water pollution, affecting tourism.
Another problem: Bolivia’s lithium carbonate contains high levels of magnesium, making the extraction process difficult and costly.
At the moment, Bolivia’s salt plain has a few pilot extraction projects under way. However, Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has been less keen about involving international companies. At the start of his presidency, he declared an end to the “looting” of the country’s resources by foreign countries.
As reported in The Guardian.