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Do we still want electric cars after reading this? And let's not blame China - we're the consumer.

Tibet’s resource curse

19.12.2011

China plans to scale up lithium extraction to meet demand for electric cars and smart phones. But environmental damage to the fragile Tibetan plateau will be irreversible, warns Gabriel Lafitte.

Article image
Chinese geologists exploring Tibet in the 1960s criss-crossed the plateau, searching for the mineral wealth they assumed must be abundant, but had not yet discovered. In remote alpine deserts, the geological expeditions came upon lakes which were slowly drying-up due to long-term climate shifts. High on the empty Chang Tang plain in western Tibet, they found lakes already dry, their beds a shimmering salt pan.

Testing the various salts, the geologists discovered a scientific curiosity. One lake in particular, Drangyer Tsaka (Zabuye), held an extraordinary concentration of lithium salts; measurements of 660 parts per million (ppm) of lithium were recorded. Only in the Atacama Desert of the Andes had such levels of lithium been discovered.

For decades, these findings were known only to a handful of geologists. Lithium was a metal in moderate demand, for unglamorous uses in the manufacture of ceramics and industrial greases and, in tiny amounts, as a psychiatric anti-depressant. China satisfied its modest need for lithium by mining a lithium-rich mineral ore at Yichun, in eastern China’s Jiangxi province. Should that prove insufficient, there were other salt lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, far from lonely Drangyer Tsaka.

https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/4696

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

Comments

  • Rosie_MOD_Rosie_MOD_ Moderator
    Someone always pays....

    "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

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