Responsible Renewable Energy Companies: Lithium Extraction and Indigenous Peoples' Rights in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile ("Lithium Triangle”)
In the current climate crisis, there is an urgent need for a transition to low-carbon energy sources that respect human rights. Responsible extraction of lithium, a key component of electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy storage, is an essential element of this transition and is becoming strategically important in the Lithium Triangle between Argentina, Bolivia and Chile which holds over 70% of global lithium reserves.
To date, there has been no comprehensive scientific assessment of the long-term impacts of lithium extraction on the environment and indigenous peoples inhabiting the high salt flats between Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. This report seeks to fill part of this gap by providing an analysis of harm including violations of the rights of indigenous peoples such as the right to free, prior and informed consent, loss of water sources (lagoons, rivers and groundwater) for household use as well as traditional shepherds and farming communities, and a lack of appropriate remedies.
Despite peaceful protests, advocacy, and legal actions by communities in the region, most harms have gone unaddressed, leading to growing resistance and scepticism within communities. Failure to address this going forward will not only result in further abuse of indigenous peoples’ rights but would also expose the end-users of lithium – including electric vehicle manufacturers, solar and wind energy companies – to financial and reputational risks putting our global transition to a low-carbon economy in jeopardy