The rise of lithium mining threatens the Andean flamingo in Argentina – by Diego Jemio (El Pais – January 28, 2024)

The mining boom — which is concentrated in the provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Catamarca — is affecting this species’ nesting places. There are less than 80,000 of these beautiful flamingos left

The Andean flamingo has an elegant stride, with a grace that hypnotizes you. Its plumage is impressive: a mix of hot pink, white and black. Reaching more than three feet in height, these creatures nest in colonies during the summer, in the shallow wetlands of Puna — the Atacama Plateau — and the Andes of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. This area is also known as the “lithium triangle.”

In Argentina, the rarest of all flamingo species is found mostly in the northern provinces — Salta, Catamarca and Jujuy — during the warmer months. These birds can also be found in the center of the country, mainly in Córdoba and Santa Fe. According to the National Mining Secretariat, there are 38 lithium projects in the country, of which 17 are in the large salt flats of the province of Salta.

For some years now, biologists and conservation specialists have been warning about the negative impacts of the exploitation of lithium brine deposits in the places where these animals reproduce and feed. This species of bird from the flamingo family (in Argentina, there are also specimens of the Southern flamingo and James’s flamingo) has been classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

For years, Enrique Derlindati — a professor of Biological Sciences at the National University of Salta — has been researching these birds, their population trends and the threats they face in their environment. He underscores the need for measures to preserve their survival and reproductive capacity.

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