Over the last couple of days there have been a number of mentions of Bolivias Lithium mines during the discussions at the water forum. Basically Lithium is a vital component of most modern batteries, used to power the explosion of throw away consumer gadgets (like my phone and netbook). Like most mining, getting this stuff out of the ground results in serious environment damage, in this case polluting water supplies with toxic heavy metals. It is exactly this type of extractive industry for export that fuels criticism of double standards from Evo Morale’s government. While they might be saying a lot of the right things on climate change and capitalism, to a large degree business continues as normal to the detriment of the environment and the people who live there. 

This week, protests by local residents have blocked a key railway access to Bolivia’s San Cristobal mine since Monday, forcing the mine, owned by Japan’s Sumitomo Corp, to store mineral ore on the site.

San Cristobal, in the central Potosi region, is one of the largest mines in Bolivia and produces silver, zinc and lead. A Mining Ministry official said he did not know the reason for the protest.

[Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1417607820100414]

Over the last several years, there has been plenty of speculation about access to worldwide lithium supplies as auto and battery makers ramp up production of lithium ion batteries and plug-in vehicles. Bolivia has some of the largest known deposits of easily accessible lithium and the government there has apparently talked about nationalizing the industry. 

Many industrial countries are eager to secure access to Bolivia’s lithium. The Japanese government, for example, is offering Bolivia a significant economic aid package, (including several hundred million dollars toward the construction of a geothermal powerplant) in return for access to the lithium. It would be hard to be surprised that Bolivia’s government would be reluctant to curb exports that could help it pay from the massive program of social reform it has promised. However, activities like this certainly makes it harder to take them seriously while they point the finger at the environmentally irresponsible behaviour of other countries.

Posted via email from World People’s Conference