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Bolivia’s lithium reserves

Did you know that half of the world’s lithium reserves are in Bolivia?  I discovered this little-known fact on the Radio 4 programme “From Our Own Correspondent”.

It may well be that Bolivia is sitting on a gold mine, with future technological developments requiring ever more lithium, there is talk of Bolivia having a similar role to play to that of Saudi Arabia in the oil industry.  The question is: will the country benefit as a whole?

This is not the first time that Bolivia has been the main supplier of a particular commodity – much of the world’s silver originally came from the cerro rico in Potosí.  It is said that during the time that Bolivia was a Spanish colony, enough silver was shipped back to Spain to build a bridge across the Atlantic Ocean!  The colonial powers literally depleted the country of a rich resource, even using slave labour to remove the silver from the mines.

In recent years there have been discussions about the way contracts with neighbouring countries or multi-national companies were negotiated – often benefiting a few but not the population as a whole.

So will it be different with lithium?  Are the salt flats of Uyuni in danger or being exploited?  And are the people of Bolivia in danger of losing another precious resource?

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One Response to “Bolivia’s lithium reserves”

  1. Locojhon Says:

    The answers to your concluding questions in order are: yes, yes and no.
    Evo Morales will ensure that the profits from lithium will benefit all Bolivians. Yes, the exploitation of lithium will have some effect upon the salt flats of Uyuni–but the Morales government is working to limit the damaging effects as much as is possible.
    The lithium metal will be exploited and the Bolivian people will be the beneficiaries of it–for the first time in the history of Bolivia.
    Viva Bolivia and viva Evo Morales–may he continue to provide the leadership that Bolivians so desperately need.

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