Bolivian President Accuses Foreign Powers of Seeking Control Over Lithium Resources

Bolivian president accuses foreign powers of trying to control lithium resources, as indigenous groups protest mining practices that threaten their lands and rights.

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Bolivian President Accuses Foreign Powers of Seeking Control Over Lithium Resources

Bolivian President Accuses Foreign Powers of Seeking Control Over Lithium Resources

Bolivian President Luis Arce has accused foreign powers and a neighboring country of attempting to control the nation's lithium resources and "balkanize" Bolivia. The accusation comes amidst growing tensions over the exploitation of lithium, a key mineral for the global transition to renewable energy.

Indigenous representatives from 35 countries recently issued a declaration criticizing the lack of consultation with Indigenous communities about mining activities on or near their lands. The declaration recognized the need for a transition to renewable energy but argued that the current trajectory fails to meet the criteria of justice, social equity, and environmental sustainability, particularly from the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples' rights and well-being.

The declaration specifically called out the International Council of Mining and Metals and the International Seabed Authority for failing to respect Indigenous rights. It cited conflicts in the Uyuni region of Bolivia, where local communities oppose the intense use of water to produce lithium.

About half of energy transition minerals and metal projects are located on or near the lands of Indigenous and other subsistence farmers. The declaration emphasized the need for comprehensive participation of Indigenous communities in the energy transition process to ensure fairness.

Why this matters: The growing demand for lithium and other minerals critical for the transition to clean energy is leading to increased tensions with Indigenous communities. Ensuring the rights and well-being of these communities while meeting the mineral requirements for the energy transition is a complex challenge that requires careful navigation.

The conference where the declaration was issued was organized by the Indigenous Peoples Rights International, with financial support from various nonprofit organizations. The declaration also mentioned increasing criminal persecution and attacks against Indigenous leaders who oppose mining projects on their lands.

President Arce's accusation highlights the geopolitical stakes involved in the control of lithium resources, as countries and companies seek to secure supplies of the critical mineral. Bolivia holds some of the world's largest lithium reserves but has struggled to ramp up production. The government's efforts to partner with foreign firms to exploit the reserves have faced resistance from local communities concerned about the environmental and social impacts.

Key Takeaways

  • Bolivian president accuses foreign powers of trying to control lithium resources.
  • Indigenous groups criticize lack of consultation on mining activities on their lands.
  • Half of energy transition projects are located on or near Indigenous lands.
  • Growing demand for lithium fuels tensions with Indigenous communities.
  • Bolivia struggles to ramp up lithium production due to local community resistance.