Here are 10 things you need to know about lithium mining in Tibet. The following points have been taken from this key article written by Gabriel Lafitte, one of the foremost environmentalists and researchers on mining in Tibet.
1. Lithium, classified almost everywhere as a critical mineral, is meant to be the gateway to a clean, green, decarbonised future; but in reality its’ accelerating extraction from Tibet is deeply troubling.
2. China’s two biggest electric vehicle brands, BYD and Tesla, rely on lithium extracted from Tibet as the foundation of their corporate expansion into markets worldwide.
3. Demand is soaring, a scramble within China to claim mining rights to Tibetan mountains is under way, hot speculative money is pouring in, fortunes will be made.
4. If this boom, based on long term lithium price, supply and demand forecasts holds up, we can expect many more lithium extraction enclaves, in several of the Chinese provinces into which the Tibetan Plateau has been fragmented.
5. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is made in China, enabled by its mastery of all the technologies of a supposedly clean, green, decarbonised future world, which happens to dig from the earth far more of the critical minerals abundant in Tibet.
6. BYD and Tesla compete vigorously, and deploy different corporate strategies, including in Tibet, where BYD has long relied on salt lake lithium from the alpine desert of far western Tibet; while Tesla turns to rock lithium from the rugged landscapes of subtropical eastern Tibet.
7. Selling Tibet to Chinese investors has been gamified for maximum viewer excitement, and lunatic pricing. Like a game show, the sale of a mining right, or just an exploration right, is done online over a week, as bids come in and excitement builds.
8. Never before has Tibet been such a prospective profit centre for China. Despite heavy industrialisation of the Tsaidam Basin of northeastern Tibet, decades of rapacious logging of the forests of transHimalayan south eastern Tibet, rapidly growing extraction of copper, and the almost exhausted extraction of chromium from southern Tibet, none of these booms (and busts) compares with the lust for lithium.
9. There are now substantial spodumene rock lithium deposits identified in many scattered districts of Tibet, their discovery aided by high tech satellite camera imagery rather than laborious foot patrols.
10. Demand is soaring, a scramble within China to claim mining rights to Tibetan mountains is under way, hot speculative money is pouring in, fortunes will be made. China’s party-state engineered and nurtured this boom, but fears it might become a destabilising bubble.
Read the complete article here