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Lithium Mining Wreaks Havoc On Our Planet

Above Photo: Lithium mining operation in South America. Euro News.

According to the law of supply and demand; as demand exceeds supply, prices will rise.

If the supply of a product exceeds the demand for it, prices will fall.

Up until now, modern society has largely depended on oil and coal for our energy supply. Virtually all reputable scientists now agree that climate change is real and the science behind it is sound. It is a naturally occurring phenomena which mankind has accelerated due to capitalism and consumerism.

Almost every civilized country on the planet has entered into the Paris Agreement with the combined goal of lowering carbon emissions 45% by the year 2030.

On paper, this all sounds wonderful. The burning fossil fuels for energy and the production of plastic, and production of automobiles which rely on gasoline for combustion engines; are both notorious contributors to the carbon emission problem.

In theory, eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels, plastic and combustion engines should slow climate change if we can reach net zero by 2050. This has led to corporations and politicians scrambling to capitalize on alternative approaches. The real issue with this is the fact that corporations and politicians created the original problem, and they’re not exactly who we should all be depending on to fix it.

We all know that politicians work for corporations who shell out millions via lobbyists. Our federal and state governments are not what they appear to be. Some have been hijacked, but most are operating just as they were designed.

The government does not give us our inalienable rights, they are supposed to protect those rights. We are born with certain freedoms and liberties. Nobody owns the water, nobody owns the land, nobody owns the people. Corporations have to find ways around these truths, more than often violating our inalienable rights. Keep in mind that corporations are made of people, and usually a CEO or executive can be found padding their bank account off of human rights violations.

It happens all the time, and the only reason it’s not talked about more is because mainstream media outlets are owned by the same mega-conglomerates who are lobbying the politicians to influence legislation in their favor.

So, when President Joe Biden signed an executive order for 50% of all automobiles produced in the United States to be electric in 2021; it wasn’t entirely altruistic. Biden’s executive order was backed by the largest US automakers, and the Biden administration claimed that this order intends to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

This decision effectively created more demand for rare metals such as lithium and cobalt; which are the main components for lithium ion batteries in electric cars, smartphones and laptop computers.

In fact, Biden’s actions have caused a projected 600% increase in demand for cobalt over the next ten years.

Most people believe that electric cars will help solve the problem of carbon emissions. They believe this because that’s what they heard from the talking heads on their preferred news networks. The facts say otherwise.

Last month, Biden’s administration proposed that two-thirds of all new cars should be electric by the year 2032. The President and EPA are now attempting to push the envelope further, creating even more demand for lithium and cobalt. According to the New York Times, last year only 5.8% of all new cars sold in the United States were entirely electric. Consumers are slow to purchase electric cars because they are expensive and we are currently experiencing a deep recession with no end in sight.

Since the consumer is not providing the demand for electric vehicles, it’s up to the President to ensure such a demand by signing his executive order.

Last year, AP News published an article titled “Biden Wants To Cut Into China’s Battery Dominance.” Patriotic propaganda and national pride, combined with the average person’s desire to stay trendy; is certainly an effective way to sell more electric cars.

President Biden stated, “We can’t build a future that’s made in America if we ourselves are dependent on China for the materials that power the products of today and tomorrow; and this is not anti-China, or anti-anything else. It’s pro-America.”

To kick things off, Biden announced that his administration will be giving $35 million to MP Materials, a mining company which operates in Southern California near the Nevada border. Biden also announced plans for extracting lithium from geothermal brine found around California’s Salton Sea. According to AP News, Biden said that “U.S. demand for such materials will grow by 400% to 600% over the next several decades.”

So, who is going to profit off of this major shift in the cannibal extractive industry?

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent company Stellantis NV have all supported Biden’s executive order. While they stand to profit from producing automobiles, they are not the manufacturers of lithium ion batteries.

While Biden is outwardly expressing a patriotic urge to dig into China’s battery dominance, he is in fact empowering Chinese lithium mining companies with his recent actions.

Take, for instance, the current situation at Thacker Pass in Nevada. The land being mined for lithium is traditional land of the Paiute-Shoshone, carrying great spiritual significance.

The mine is a project of Lithium Nevada, LLC; a “wholly owned subsidiary of Lithium Americas Corp, a Canadian company whose largest shareholder is the world’s largest lithium mining company, Chinese Ganfeng Lithium.”

In reality, President Biden is increasing demand for lithium and increasing profits for Chinese lithium mining companies.

Last Real Indians spoke with William Falk, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass and legal representative for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe in ongoing litigation against the Bureau of Land Management for permitting the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine.

Says Falk, “Lithium Nevada’s Thacker Pass Lithium Mine will destroy land sacred to Paiute and Shoshone people, will harm the health of Native communities on the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Reservation and the Winnemucca Indian Colony, and harm the health of non-Native communities in Winnemucca, Orovada, and Kings River, Nevada.”

Regarding the increase in demand for lithium and cobalt, Falk said “It’s not just in Nevada, either. Lithium mining in Nevada will cause more demand for other rare Earth metals necessary for electric car batteries like cobalt, which is primarily mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where child labor is common. When we’re talking about the extraction required to manufacture more automobiles – whether powered by electricity or gas – we have to understand that dozens of places like Thacker Pass are destroyed by this extraction.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo is sitting on more cobalt than the rest of the world combined. Author and activist Siddharth Kara visited an industrial cobalt mine in the Congo, where the mining company isn’t supposed to hire a single artisanal miner (freelance miners who use hand tools). Kara witnessed around 15,000 artisanal miners clanging away at the ground, all for the cobalt found in lithium-ion batteries.

Kara recorded the apocalyptic scene and blew the whistle on the mine. According to NPR, Chinese companies own “15 of the 19 primary industrial copper-cobalt mining concessions” in the Congo. Also according to NPR, Chinese companies don’t only dominate the mining excavation in the Congo, “they dominate the chain all the way through to the battery level.” Owning “about 70 – 80% of the refined cobalt market and probably half of the battery market.” [SOURCE: “How ‘modern-day slavery’ in the Congo powers the rechargeable battery economy” – NPR]

Falk is right – Lithium mining in Nevada will cause more demand for other rare Earth metals necessary for electric car batteries. This will also effectively create an influx of billions of dollars in revenue for Chinese corporations.

Elsewhere, the cannibalistic extractive industry has already severely damaged ecological habitats. Chile, Argentina and Bolivia form the so-called “lithium triangle,” which is believed to contain more than half the world’s resources across its extensive salt flats. According to Harvard International Review, extracting one ton of lithium requires approximately 500,000 gallons of water. In Chile, 65% of the region’s water supply has been consumed by lithium mining. Extraction also carries the high risk of leaking chemicals into the natural water supply, completely ignoring Native People’s water rights.

In an exclusive interview with AFP News Agency, former Bolivian President Evo Morales expressed his belief that he experienced a “national and international coup d’etat” backed by the United States; all over access to Bolivia’s lithium supply. Morales was his Bolivia’s first ever Indigenous president.

In response to the illegal and forced removal of Morales from office, Elon Musk infamously stated, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” Musk is the owner of Tesla, a leading brand in electric vehicles.

Peru currently has a lithium exploration project in the region of Puno, bordering Bolivia; the project is run by Macusani Yellowcake, a subsidiary of Canada’s American Lithium Corp (the same company that owns the mining operation at Thacker Pass).

Bettina Schorr is the director of trAndes, “a joint research program on sustainable development run by Peru’s PUCP and the Free University of Berlin.” Schorr told DW, “almost every one of these countries experienced surging social conflicts associated with these projects.”

The most water intensive method of mining lithium is the evaporation of brine. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy is one of several companies working on extracting lithium from the geothermal brine found around the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake.

California Governor Gavin Newsom supports President Biden’s lithium mining plans, particularly the evaporation of brine in California. The Newsom administration has said that it wants to “ensure economic benefits from lithium extraction go back to the areas around the Salton Sea, which have been hit by economic hardship and environmental degradation as the lake dries up because of dwindling supplies from the Colorado River.”

Perhaps Governor Newsom should consult with the Indigenous Colla community of the Copiapó commune in northern Chile, whose homelands have been left “high and dry” from the evaporation of brines for lithium deposits. Chile is the second largest producer of lithium. The extraction technique employed in Chile “drains already scarce water resources, damages wetlands, and harms communities.” [SOURCE: “Lithium Mining Is Leaving Chile’s Indigenous Communities High and Dry (Literally)” – NRD]

Elena Rivera Cardoso, president of the Indigenous Colla community of the Copiapó commune in northern Chile, told NRD “Chile is going through a tremendous water crisis. We used to have a river before that now doesn’t exist. There isn’t a drop of water,” says Rivera. “And not only here in Copiapó but in all of Chile, there are rivers and lakes that have disappeared—all because a company has a lot more right to water than we do as human beings or citizens of Chile.”

The global lithium market is quickly approaching $8 billion. Lithium mining requires an exorbitant amount of water. According to the website for Protect Thacker Pass, “Nevada is the driest state in the USA, yet the mine plans to use 2,600 acre-feet (850 million gallons of water) per year in phase one, and 5,200 acre-feet (1.7 billion gallons or water) per year in phase 2.”

According to research by automotive consultant Berylls Strategy Advisors, building each 1,100 pound battery for electric SUV sized vehicles “would emit up to 74% more CO2 than producing an efficient conventional car if it’s made in a factory powered by fossil fuels in a place like Germany.” [SOURCE: “Lithium Batteries’ Dirty Secret: Manufacturing Them Leaves Massive Carbon Footprint” – Bloomberg, Industry Week]

So, the production of electric cars actually has the potential to increase carbon emissions. President Biden’s plans are incredibly flawed, unless of course his administration is operating under the guise of “going green” while actually increasing demand for lithium and cobalt, which will result in billions of dollars in profits for Chinese corporations.

Sounds like a very green plan, if the “green” we are talking about is money.

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