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The big question with this environmentally friendly end of the automotive industry is if it actually helps the environment.

So far mining efforts have been killing a Chilean desert, as per a Bloomberg report, read on:


Saving the Planet With Electric Cars Means Strangling This Desert
Mining lithium and copper to supply the battery boom and fight climate change is wrecking a fragile ecosystem in Chile.

The oases that once interrupted the dusty slopes of the Atacama desert in northern Chile allowed humans and animals to survive for thousands of years in the world’s driest climate. That was before the mining started.

Sara Plaza, 67 years old, can still remember guiding her family’s sheep along an ancient Inca trail running between wells and pastures. Today she is watching an engine pump fresh water from beneath the mostly dry Tilopozo meadow. “Now mining companies are taking the water,” she says, pointing to dead grass around stone ruins that once provided a nighttime refuge for shepherds.

“No one comes here anymore, because there’s not enough grass for the animals,” Plaza says. “But when I was a kid, there was so much water you could mistake this whole area for the sea.”

Atacama has become one of the busiest mining districts on the planet in the intervening decades, following discoveries of massive deposits of copper and lithium. In recent years that mining has intensified, thanks to booming demand for lithium, which is indispensable in the production of rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles. Chile exported nearly $1 billion of lithium last year, almost quadruple the export value from four years ago.



Pursuit of the soft mineral is often seen as something that’s good for the environment. Electric automakers such as Tesla Inc. want to make it easier and cheaper for drivers to adopt clean, battery-powered replacements for dirty combustion engines. Batteries are by far the most expensive part of an electric vehicle, so mining more lithium to meet rising demand helps lower prices. Putting more electric cars on the road is one of the most powerful ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, reducing the 15.6% of global carbon emissions that come from transportation.

But extracting Atacama’s lithium means pumping large amounts of water and churning up salty mud known as brine—and that’s having an irreversible impact on the local environment. Here, in this remote part of the Andes, the hopeful mission of saving the planet through electric cars is destroying a fragile ecosystem and depleting stores of drinking water.

“We’re fooling ourselves if we call this sustainable and green mining,” says Cristina Dorador, a Chilean biologist who studies microbial life in the Atacama desert. “The lithium fever should slow down because it’s directly damaging salt flats, the ecosystem and local communities.”

Lithium mining’s crown jewel is a vast salt flat 10 times as big as New York’s Central Park. To get the minerals out requires working at an elevation about 6,500 feet above sea level. The otherworldly desert landscape is dotted with shallow lagoons in which flamingos nest amid an enclosure of volcanoes and mountains. The stunning geography is akin to a gigantic bowl.

Dorador studies the microscopic life found in the lagoons, which are fed by underground reservoirs and thin streams coming down the mountains. Over millennia, that water has deposited the coveted minerals at the heart of the salt flat. It has also been the key to sustaining life in a place so hostile that scientists use it to simulate conditions on Mars.

Mining companies have made a study of the water, too. The world’s largest copper mine, BHP Group Ltd.’s Escondida, pumps water from wells on the southern part of the salt flat; so, too, does Antofagasta Plc.’s Zaldivar copper operation. Copper miners use water at every step of the process to turn rocks into a 99.9% pure slab of mineral. Copper-rich rocks are crushed into a dust that’s mixed with water to flow through giant pipes, and then water mixed with chemicals is used to separate the copper from the slurry.

Lithium mining needs less fresh water but requires pumping large amounts of brine, the salty mud sitting below the crust of the salt flats. The mineral-rich brine is left in large pools to evaporate before processing. The world’s two largest lithium miners, Albemarle Corp. and Soc. Quimica & Minera de Chile SA, are currently extracting brine from the salt flat at unprecedented rates. Albemarle's process is “absolutely clean,” a company official said in an email, and the company is developing technology to produce more lithium without pumping more brine than authorized. (SQM didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)


the full article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-06-11/saving-the-planet-with-electric-cars-means-strangling-this-desert
 

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In the long run the benefits of EV’s will out weight the minuscule population in Chile at the present time that is being affected. You cannot get something for nothing and there are always consequences. My take on EV’s is that the U.S. in particular is transforming previous coal burning generation plants to a cleaner burning natural gas supply. Along with that it is a lot easier to control air pollution from a couple of generating stacks than it is to millions of untuned petroleum burning vehicles on the road. Also in congested cities EV’s will result in cleaner air and less lung diseases. No it is not perfect but a step in the right direction and with newer technology coming on line all the time a better solution. By the way, look up mining problems caused for materials not used in EV’s.

PS- I am by far not a environmentalist but at 65 YO realize fossil fueling ourselves into oblivion is not a great choice for future generations. Burning fossil fuels has brought multiple generations many advantages, conveniences and higher quality life but at some point cleaner, recyclable forms of energy need to be explored.

Transportation is only part of the picture. Other areas of energy conservation and pollution minimizing need to be addressed also.
 

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@MPawelek well said.

Its been just over a century that we've been really dependent on oil and weening off of it, especially to the extent our negative environmental impact gets reduced, will take a while. I see an endless amount of reports saying we're not doing enough but not enough show projections of when the scale begins to tip.
 

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I was in the farming industry for 40+ years as a commercial grower and believe Mother Nature will always win in the end when the scales are tipped too far by mankind. If things progress to a tipping point there will not be enough clean usable water for crops/human consumption and eventually wars over water. Lack of clean water will cause famine and disease will follow and reduce the population down to a minimal point where man’s impact can be absorbed by nature and a balance will occur once again.

Sure we have growing technology for some wind and solar power. Also machinery to clean up even sea water but none of this comes close to supporting the current growth in the world’s population. We need to streamline now in many different aspects, not just in automobiles.

Lot’s of small things are a beginning from a energy standpoint. Do we really need to freight bottled water from Iceland or eat potatoe chips driven from California all the way to the East Coast?
 
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