New Lithium Mining Technology Could Give Argentina a Sustainable Gold Rush – by Ciara Nugent (Time Magazine – July 26, 2022)

The Vasquez brothers aren’t used to visitors. Their farm lies in the Puna, a vast plateau region in the Andes Mountains, some 12,500 ft above sea level and a full day’s drive to the nearest city.

The terrain, in the Argentine province of Catamarca, is rough and largely empty; fluffy, big-eyed llamas wander a miles-wide plain between mountains. Only sparse shrubs pepper the ground, glowing yellow-green Technicolor under the close sun. But one day in 2016, a tall man in his 50s, speaking heavily Australian-accented Spanish, pulled up to the Vasquezes’ remote farmhouse.

He told them that a couple of miles away, under the otherworldly surface of the plateau, lay huge amounts of lithium—the white metal essential to making the batteries needed to power electric vehicles and other clean energy technology—and he had a plan to extract it.

Such foreign arrivals are often bad news in the Andean highlands, which stretch across parts of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Over the past 30 years, North American, European, and Asian mining companies have descended on the region to dig up its plentiful deposits of copper, zinc, silver, and lithium, of which 59% of the world’s known reserves are here.

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