Salar de Atacama, Antofagasta, Chile
From Yes to life No to Mining global network ‘On the Frontlines of Lithium Extraction’
Lithium projects in this salt are run by SQM (Chile, China) and Albemarle (USA) making use mostly (but not only) of brine, while copper projects Minera Zaldívar (Antofagasta Minerals, Barrick) and Minera Escondida (BHP, Rio Tinto) have made use of the largest amounts of fresh water since their operations started. SQM and Escondida are formally accused of environmental damage and excessive water extraction in several Salt Flats such as Atacama, Punta Negra and Llamará.
Extraction of massive amounts of fresh water and brine (180 million liters/day aprox.) near protected wetlands as well as human settlements equally composed by atacameño indigenous people and non-indigenous communities who depend on small-scale agriculture and tourism.
Neither proper environmental assessment nor Indigenous/Public consultation has ever been carried out for lithium extraction, and precautionary principle has not been respected. It’s also important to note that the lithium giant SQM has been linked to Pinochet’s dictatorship since its privatization and in democracy has been involved in corruption, fraud and illegal funding of several political campaigns including former President Michelle Bachelet and current President Sebastián Piñera. The latter has been recently denounced in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed during the social outbreak that started in October 2019. Currently, the same company is deploying a greenwashing campaign that mixes the local catholic church, recently created foundations and a local newspaper.