In a recent announcement, China proudly declared a major breakthrough in lithium exploration, unveiling nearly one million tons of lithium resources in Yajiang County, Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province. This discovery is touted as the largest pegmatite monomer lithium mine in Asia, promising significant strides in the country's lithium production.
The lithium, considered a critical mineral for the clean energy transition, holds immense value as a core material for power batteries and energy storage. However, this positive news is shadowed by a growing concern highlighted by environmentalists and researchers regarding China's accelerated extraction of lithium from the Tibetan plateau.
According to a comprehensive report by Gabriel Lafitte, an environmentalist and mining expert, there are few critical aspects to consider in the context of China's increasing focus on lithium mining in Tibet. The report emphasizes that while lithium is deemed crucial for a green and decarbonized future, the extraction process in Tibet is causing profound environmental and social consequences.
One key concern raised in the report is the lack of consultation with local Tibetan communities. The rush for mining rights in Tibetan mountains is described as a speculative scramble, driven by the soaring demand for lithium. The competitive race for mining rights has been gamified, resembling an online auction where excitement and prices escalate.
Furthermore, the report underscores the adverse impact on Tibet's biodiversity and ecosystem due to hasty and ecologically damaging extraction methods employed by Chinese miners. Instances of pollution in areas vital for Tibetan herders have been documented, raising questions about the ethical implications of exploiting Tibet's resources without local consent.
Gabriel Lafitte's research also delves into the geopolitical tensions arising from China's pursuit of domestic mineral supplies, particularly lithium, amid strained relations with Western exporters. The report outlines the global ramifications of China's aggressive expansion of the lithium industry in Tibet.
As China celebrates its lithium success in Sichuan, the darker reality of environmental degradation, human rights violations, and geopolitical tensions looms large over the quest for this coveted resource in the Tibetan plateau. The international community is urged to scrutinize the ethical and environmental implications of China's lithium rush in Tibet, recognizing the broader impact on the global shift towards clean energy
Edited and collated by Team TRC