"Bolivia's lithium belongs to the Bolivian people. Not to multinational corporate cabals."
Lithium is one of the most valuable resources in Bolivia. The soft, light mineral is mined mainly in Australia, Chile, and Argentina. Bolivia has around 9 million tons - the second largest supply in the world - and up until now they've had no way to access it. But President Evo Morales, who just resigned this past week following a military coup, had shut down an agreement with a German company to mine the lithium.
The nationalization policy of the Morales government and the geographical complexity of Salar de Uyuni chased away several transnational mining firms. Eramet (France), FMC (United States) and Posco (South Korea) could not make deals with Bolivia, so they now operate in Argentina.
Morales made it clear that any development of the lithium had to be done with Bolivia’s Comibol—its national mining company—and Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB)—its national lithium company—as equal partners.
Lithium is the prime component in electric car batteries. As electric cars are growing in popularity and demand is quickly outracing production, Germany's ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) - who supply Tesla with their lithium batteries - arranged a deal with President Morales to access the resources in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats, said to hold 50-70% of the world's lithium stores.
The coup, which on Sunday resulted in Morales resigning and going into hiding, was the result of days of protests from right-wing elements angry at the leftist Morales government. Sen. Jeanine Añez, of the center-right party Democratic Unity, is currently the interim president in the unstable post-coup government in advance of elections.
As Telesur reported in June, the Morales government announced at the time it was "determined to industrialize Bolivia and has invested huge amounts to ensure that lithium is processed within the country to export it only in value-added form, such as in batteries."
So...there was a coup in Bolivia. Bolivia's lithium belongs to the Bolivian people. Not to multinational corporate cabals.— David Atkins (@DavidOAtkins) November 11, 2019
Since the coup, there are questions about how the Bolivian people would capitalize on these resources. With the demand in lithium skyrocketing, the poor investment climate might begin to impact the ability to meet the demand.
ACISA told German broadcaster DW last week that the company was "confident that our lithium project will be resumed after a phase of political calmness and clarification."
Hopefully the power vaccumm with not create an indiscriminate pillaging of Bolivia's natural resources. The country borders Brazil and has seen tremendous fires in their Amazon rainforests similar to the conditions created by Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, the indigenous population that brought Morales to power are worried what the coup might mean to the country's natural resources. The military coup backed by hardline conservatives and right wing demagogues. Senator Jeanine Anez, who has taken power as interim president, held up a Bible and said, “the bible has returned to the government palace”. Morales oversaw the introduction of a new constitution which put Christianity on an equal footing with other religions.