Lithium activates labor and environmental conflicts in Catamarca

Tres Quebradas, the megaproject of lithium exploitation of the Chinese company Liex Zijin, worries the inhabitants of Fiambalá. An investigation published in the journal citrus gives account of the presence of a processing plant next to the hospital, situations of job insecurity and a potential lack of water that could harm the environment and local economies.

The workers of the salt flat – 100 kilometers from the town of Catamarca and 4,100 meters above sea level – assure that the days are extended by 12 hours in exchange for low wagesThey lack the basic equipment to handle chemical products and often have access to water to clean themselves.

liex zijin is the main gold producer in its country and seeks to be one of the three largest mining companies in the world in 2030. In its initial stage, the 30,000 hectares of Tres Quebradas will produce 20,000 tons of lithium carbonate per year. After a first processing in the salt flat, the pre-concentrated lithium travels to a pilot plant in fiambalawhere carbonate is produced. When the new plant is ready, the shipments will leave through the Pacific through Chile. The company will only pay 3.5 percent of the declared value.

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“In November 2022 the entire population was sick for more than a month, with similar vomiting, skin rashes, breakdowns, and other problems,” denounces the article. And he adds that “the pilot plant was closed for a while but the reasons were not reported.” On the other hand, the project requires 40 million liters of water per yeara demand that could endanger crops such as vineyards.

The potential impact also compromises the system of high Andean and puneña lagoons, which conserve endangered species such as the Andean flamingo. Anything that happens in the salt flats can generate irreversible impacts on the watercourses and the life they host, warns biologist Patricia Marconi.

“A national lithium company is not the way” for the development of the sector, assured an expert

Between the opportunities for individual growth and the danger of long-term consequences, three ravines It is another example of the tension that extractive enterprises bring to this part of the world. A dynamic that is transferred to the mining company’s own Instagram account, which alternates between job searches, testimonials from happy employees, national food workshops, raffles and even donations to the local police.

Liex Zijin did not reply to the queries for this note.


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