by Vijay Prashad – Alejandro Bejarano
Part 2 - The Lithium Triangle
Over 50 percent of the world’s known lithium deposits are in the “Lithium Triangle”—the lithium concentrated brine sources in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Bolivia’s high mountain deserts—the Salar de Uyuni—have by far the largest known reserves of lithium.
In a bizarre tweet, the Bolivian entrepreneur Samuel Doria Medina wrote that since Elon Musk and Jair Bolsonaro will discuss the Tesla plant in Brazil, they should add to this initiative the following: “build a Gigafactory in the Salar de Uyuni to supply lithium batteries.”
Doria Medina is not just an entrepreneur. He is the vice-presidential candidate alongside the “interim president” Jeanine Áñez for the May 3, 2020, Bolivian presidential elections. Áñez came to power only because of the coup d’état against Evo Morales in November 2019. Doria Medina’s welcome mat to Tesla should, therefore, be seen as having the full authority of the coup government behind it.
Morales’ government had been very cautious with these lithium reserves. It had made clear that these precious resources were not to be turned over to transnational corporations in deals favorable to the firms; what gains come from lithium, Morales had pointed out, must be properly shared with the Bolivian people.
The point that Morales’ government made is that any deal must be done with Comibol—Bolivia’s national mining company—and Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos—Bolivia’s national lithium company. The monetary gains from the mining would come into the Bolivian exchequer and then fund the social programs so necessary for the country.
This sensible socialist policy was too much for three major transnational firms—Eramet (France), FMC (United States), and Posco (South Korea)—all three of whom turned tail and went to Argentina.