The Bolivian lithium rich brine is pumped in to big pools carved out in the middle of the flats.
The mineral mass is left in the sun for many months in enormous lithium evaporation pools. When ready, it gets processed at the nearby Planta Llipi - a lithium process plant.
Last year, the operation has produced twenty tons of lithium carbonate. The number for 2018 is expected to be at least thrice that high.
Local people will get the most effected by the lithium mining in the area which is using most of their fresh water. They are fearful of the new plant's impact on the local population, whose survival is dependent almost entirely on agriculture that needs water and there's less of it with each passing year.
Salt miners from a Tavua village are loading their truck with salt.
In a report, the Goldman Sachs investment bank has called lithium carbonate the new gasoline. The report also predicted that by 2025 the lithium market should expand to thrice its current size. Eight years from now the world's yearly demand is expected to total 500 000 tons. Bolivia is trying to sees this opportunity.
A heated room which is full of lithium carbonate, or “desert gold,” as workers at Planta Llipi refer to it.
Salt deposits on the edge of big evaporation pools at the only operating lithium mine in USA - Albemarle’s Clayton Valley, Silver Peak mine in Nevada, USA.
At Soundon New Energy a huge lithium ion battery company the demand for high-quality cadre is exploding. Much like those elusive battery cells, there is never enough competent and highly-educated employees to go around. In 2016 the state here in China closed down several hundred companies on account of the pollution and embarked on its current green course. This was an enormous boost for us!« said Sophia Peng the head of marketing at the SNE.
Modern premises of hi tech SNE battery company.
In 2017 more than 300K electric vehicles had been sold in China – 3x as many as in the USA. ZD is the first Chinese manufacturer to penetrate the demanding and heavily regulated European market. Working with their Italian business partners who had designed the vehicles, ZD had gained a beach-head in Italy four years ago.
ZD is a small Chinese EV company form Linyi county, one of China's greatest producers of small two-seater urban electric cars.
ZD also assembles its own lithium battery packs. Its lithium carbonate is wholly “home-grown”, and its battery cells are purchased on the open market. »There is never enough of them! Never enough! There's a huge battle for resources.« says Mr. Lee head of international marketing and sales at the ZD company.
Right now some 100K small urban two seater ZD e-cars can be found on the roads in China, South Korea, Italy and Slovakia. 40K of them had been produced in 2017. “By 2030, the global automobile market will be unrecognizable. Battery prices are sure to fall, which means the e-car will be increasingly available to almost everyone. Oil is a thing of the past, the present belongs to lithium.” says Mr. Lee.
US companies are intensively and aggressively seeking out fresh deposits of lithium all over the world, including on its own soil.
A global lithium fever started back in 2016 and hasn't let up.
Mr. Andrew Suckling Executive Chairman of lithium investment firm Candence Minerals at his NY city office in Soho.
Given the steep rise in city population and pollution all over the world, many Chinese electric-car manufacturers have decided to focus entirely on urban traffic. At the moment, more than 200 electric-vehicle manufacturers are operating in China. Although China is not providing subsidies for new Tesla cars, it still remains among the most popular one.
A Chinese couple with their polution masks on their faces, is passing the popular Tesla store at a “Tai Koo Li” shopping centre in Chengdu, China.
This extremely remote region is one of the coldest in the world. For this reason, number of Chinese electric-car manufacturers had chosen it as their winter testing site for their new prototype electric cars, like this prototype EV of Chinese Slovenian joint venture APG Elaphe. Here in the middle of nowhere, the Chinese engineers are taking the future for a test spin.
Lithium - the driving force of the 21st Century
Batteries are the social and industrial game changers of our time. Project follows the tracks of its core component, lithium, from mining to the final products.
Electric cars, smart phones, robotics… all driven by batteries, causing the market for lithium to soar. But the world will soon be in short supply, which in turn can cause serious geo-strategic consequences.
The project follows the path from the mining of this raw material at Salar de Uyuni high up in the Bolivian Andes, Bolivia holding the largest confirmed lithium reserves in the world, trough the lithium rush in the United States, all the way to the manufacturing of the final products like electric cars and the lithium ion batteries around China. China being a leading global producer, as well as a rapidly growing market for the lithium-battery driven products and e-mobility.
As the need for effective climate protection gets stronger, the development of cleaner energy is gaining momentum. At the same time, a key part of the solution, lithium, and the production of the material, is not without its own hazards and sins. Lithium pollution is an increasing problem wherever lithium is mined, and also there are threats to local communities that are totally taken control over by mining companies. Also, as the supply of lithium is not fast enough to accommodate the demand, signs of the bottleneck effect are already manifesting, with Chinese, Australian and American corporations buying lithium mines in various countries around the world to ensure the reserves for the future.
Project is talking about how future is unraveling in front of our eyes, raising awareness about how the transition from dirty inefficient fossil fuelled vehicles to clean efficient electric vehicles is actually happening, with all its wonderful possibilities but also how it’s affecting geo politics and how clean energy also comes with a price and some risks.