Earth & Conservation

South America's Lithium Boom: A Blessing Or A Curse?

Bolivia holds the world's largest lithium reserves and mining it could heal the impoverished country's economy. But at what cost?

Bolivia is home to the world's largest salt flat. Extending for thousands of miles, tourists can walk on the crystal white surface where no development or vegetation can be seen.

As valuable as salt can be, unbeknownst to many, something more valuable lies beneath: lithium. Around a quarter of the world's lithium reserves remains untapped underneath Bolivia's salt flats. But it isn't the only South American country with this potential. Forming the lithium triangle, Chile and Argentina have already started to tap into their own reserves and are exporting it to foreign countries.

With the tech industry turning to lithium as their resource of choice, demand is only increasing. So the question for Bolivia remains: is lithium a blessing or a curse?

Learn More:

BBC: In pictures: The world's largest salt flat in Bolivia

Scientific American: Salt 'n Power: A First Look at the Lithium Flats of Bolivia

Washington Post: Tossed Aside in the 'White Gold' Rush