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Lithium mining in Salar Coipasa, Chile and Bolivia

In the Salar de Copaisa, the Aymara community of Ancovinto opposes the lithium exploration project of the Canadian company Lithium Chile for its socio-environmental affections.

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Since the implementation of its operations in Chile in 2016, the Canadian company Lithium Chile Inc. has been proposed to initiate a large-scale lithium exploration program [1]. For this purpose, it has bought a total of 166,950 hectares in the country, which acquired the treasury at an approximate cost of $ 3 for each of them [1]. By March 2021, the mining company declared to have 13 properties in 11 Salaries and a Lagunas complex, giving a total of 71,900 hectares intervened [2]. The company states that its investment in Chile is part of a corporate decision that relies on the legal and economic institutions of the country [3].

The Chilean territory of Salar Coipasa, in the Colchane Commune, Tarapacá Region, is one of the most conflicting properties of Lithium Chile. Salar is 225 kilometers from Oruro, at a height of 3657 msnm [4]. In this place is where the company aims to probe an area of ​​40km2 of surface brine with values ​​greater than 1.410mg / l lithium [5]. Counting on the support of the minister of Mining at that time, Baldo Prokurica and subject to the commitment to start a compensation plan for the benefit of the Ancovinto community, Chilean courts approved three probe projects that were awarded to the company [5] .

should be noted that the Chilean sector has about 2% of the territory of Salar, finding Its most in the territory of Bolivia. Both in Chilean and Bolivian circumfillment there are projects related to lithium. In the case of the Bolivian side of Salar Coipase, Chinese and German companies have made important investments for the exploitation of the same resource [6].

At the beginning of October 2019, the Canadian company announced for the first time and publicly its scanning plans of the Salar Coipasa [7]. It draws attention that the announcement is made in a climate of community conflicts and leading a judicial process against the ancovinto indigenous community.

currently the community faces A legal demand from Lithium Chile for access to the Salar de Cipasa [8]. Purported by this legal situation, by the end of October of the same year members of the Aymara community of Ancovint began to protest against lithium extraction plans [9]. The actions reached the cut of the Salar Access by paralyzing the exploration and survey work.

The community is concerned about the subject of water and the possible impacts of mining in Quinoa crops and flame herds, taking into account that the area suffers aridity problems as it has highlighted one of its members: "The Aymara people have survived thousands of years on this land with their crops and their herds", " We defend our indigenous community and we will continue defending it to prevent it from looted, exploited and contaminated by lithium removal "[10].

According to the Acovinto organization resists the company gave clear and precise information about the project and its possible impacts trying to take advantage of "the humility and lack of knowledge" of the people [10].

have denounced Also the lies of the company Lithium Chile Inc. who claims to be "A leading company in Extrac Lithium cion as regards its ability to work constructively and achieve the support of local communities "when it is clear that it does not have the agreement and consensus of the community for the development of the project [10].

They have also criticized the logics of colonial domination linked to the process of energy transition: "Companies come here to meet the demand generated in the global northern countries and supply raw materials for their industry. The colonial structures are being reproduced, since they destroy our flora and our fauna to cover the demand for electric cars in Germany, the United States and Canada "[10].

At the same time that the community had to prepare the arguments of their legal defense, consigning that the place where the probe is projected is land from an indigenous community, which is defined in accordance with Article 12 of Law No. 19,523. About it, according to article 13 of the same law, you can not impose easements. Thus, the servitude of the company is impossible according to the law, except that it has the community agreement, duly referred to the National Indigenous Development Corporation to approve it. And, in addition, as long as previously there is an environmental resolution approved by the Environmental Assessment Service for dealing with an indigenous development area called "Jiwasa Operade" (Supreme Decree No. 67, 2001) [11].

Given these background arguments, the Community resolves refusing the demand declaring that the project requires a recognition of community involvement, indigenous consultation, managing the authorization of CONADI of a tax Requested by the community. Submitting the project to ambient qualification (RCA) project, its non-affectation is determined to sectors declared national monuments and / or historical monuments, public roads and national goods for public use or the communal regulatory level of the Colchane Commune [11] .

Since then, judicial actions were paralyzed, affected by the national context of pandemic. Only during the second semester of the year 2021 the preparatory citations were reactivated again.

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lithium mining in Salar Coipasa, Chile and Bolivia
State or province: Province of Tamarugal.
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Lithium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The initial intervention project of Lithium Chile in the Salar de Cipasa consists of sounding an area of ​​40km2 of surface brine with values ​​greater than 1.410mg / l lithium [4].

Project area:17,400
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:03/10/1019
Company names or state enterprises:Lithium Chile Inc. from Canada
Relevant government actors:National Indigenous Development Corporation
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ancovinto resists:
OpSal - Plurinational Observatory of Andean Salaries
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impacts Judicial process against the indigenous community of Ancovinto
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Project temporarily suspended
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[8] Expedientes de demanda civil de Terence Walker a Comunidad de Ancovinto y Comunidad Indígena Aymara de Ancovinto. Tribunal: Juzgado de Letras y Garantía de Pozo Almonte. ROL: C-147-2019 y ROL: C-218-2019
[click to view]

[11] BCN; Decreto Supremo N° 67, de 2001
[click to view]

[2]Características de Chile para inversionistas según Lithium Chile
[click to view]

[3] Díptico informativo de Lithium Chile; marzo del 2021
[click to view]

[4] Mapa y características geofísicas del Salar de Coipasa según Lithium Chile
[click to view]

[5] Reporte Minero; Octubre del 2019; Aprueban instalación de sondajes en proyecto de litio Coipasa
[click to view]

[6] Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (2019). YLB firma acuerdo preliminar para que industrializar el litio en los salares de Coipasa y Pastos Grandes.
[click to view]

[7] Bloomberg; Lithium Chile Updates Coipasa Drilling Program October 3, 2019
[click to view]

[click to view]

Lithium Chile - projects
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[9] Red Social de Ancovinto Resiste.
[click to view]

Other documents

Fuente: Ancovinto Resiste
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update04/11/2021
Conflict ID:5615
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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