Tensions grow as China ramps up global mining for green tech (BBC.com – April 29, 2024)


Earlier this year, Ai Qing was woken up in the middle of the night by angry chants outside her dormitory in northern Argentina. She peered out of the window to see Argentine workers surrounding the compound and blockading the entrance with flaming tyres.

“It was getting scary because I could see the sky being lit up by the fire. It had become a riot,” says Ms Ai, who works for a Chinese company extracting lithium from salt flats in the Andes mountains, for use in batteries.

The protest, sparked by the firing of a number of Argentine staff, is just one of a growing number of cases of friction between Chinese businesses and host communities, as China – which already dominates the processing of minerals vital to the green economy – expands its involvement in mining them. It was just 10 years ago that a Chinese company bought the country’s first stake in an extraction project within the “lithium triangle” of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, which holds most of the world’s lithium reserves.

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